I’ve done the 5k Race for Life three times now, every time supported by my ever-motivating friend Emma. But this year, I’m joined by Emma and her two kids and Jo and her daughter for a different 5k. We’re walking this one, all in aid of Alzheimer’s Society.
The Race for Life was more of a challenge with the charity elements being a bonus. The race is held at the end of the school year, usually on a really hot day and Emma and I would train for five months beforehand. Pregnancy and sleepless nights have reduced the amount of training we can do – basically, Emma’s knackered and I have no motivation to run without her. I hate running. I do it for Emma and because there’s a deadline and after that I don’t have to do it again for a few months.
There wasn’t the passion either for the charity. I have had relatives and friends who have died from cancer, but I give to other cancer charities quite a lot. And so, this year, because we couldn’t manage to run the Race for Life, we decided to try something different.
We still wanted something physical, something where we weren’t just chucking money at a charity, and something we could do together. And then a Facebook advert popped up for the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk.
And this is where my heart was stolen and I signed up pretty much instantly.
My Nana, who I am named after, died some years ago. Most of memories of her are of a strong woman. We called her Funny Nanny because she was quite forgetful and sometimes she would slip into German, often when angry or frustrated, which as kids we found humorous. This forgetfulness was down to the removal of a brain tumour – I have no memories of her before the tumour. We were used to it.
But then she started to forget more and more things. We were used to her forgetting that we were coming round for a visit, but she would quickly remember that that was why she’d bought in a cake or put the kettle on. It was very short-term. When she couldn’t tell the difference between my mum and my auntie, we did get worried. And when she’d forget that she’d already been shopping that day, we got even more worried.
And when she was diagnosed with dementia, we realised that she needed us more than we could have known. My mum and auntie did the very best they could to maintain her independence, but she just got too bad. Putting her in a nursing home was devastating, but the best we could do. And it was in doing this that we saw how bad it had been. Nana had stored hundreds of bedding sets, most of which were still in their packaging. She’d become obsessed with getting a good deal on household items, mostly ones she didn’t need. She had four kettles in her wardrobe.
The worst was at the end. She didn’t recognise her daughters – I became both of them in one day as she tried to work out who I was. She got angry really quickly. She was frightened but couldn’t tell us why.
My Nana became a shell of herself, stripping away every aspect of her personality that we loved.
For me, the worst was watching how it broke my mum. I could use sarcasm to counterattack when Nana got angry or argumentative, but Mum couldn’t. She spent every minute, when she wasn’t working or sleeping, with her mum. Her life fell apart because her mum’s life had fallen apart.
And this is why I’m walking in memory of my Nana on the 10th September.
I’ve never walked in memory of a single person when doing the Race for Life. But this one is so close to my heart that I couldn’t say no.
And I am so glad that Emma, Jo and their little ones will walk this walk with me. It’s made us all talk about Alzheimers, whether or not we’ve experienced it.
My mum still gets choked up when talking about Nana in that last year, but she’s getting stronger. Her main fear is developing it herself – that it’s genetic. And so, although I will walk in memory of my Nana, I will also walk in the hope that the research Alzheimer’s Society do will help my mum find answers, deter the disease and stay the strong, independent woman she is.
And I’m asking anyone who can help to donate – any amount, no matter how tiny. Click here to donate to my JustGiving page. I appreciate every penny in this fight for a future full of happy memories.