A few years ago, I was cleaning out my closet when I found a box left over from my college apartment. Inside, I found cards my Mom had sent me over the four years I was in Tallahassee. There was a card for every occasion imaginable: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, the end of a semester, Easter, birthdays and cards that simply said “I Miss You.” Though we talked on the phone every day, my mom always took the extra time out of her week to handwrite a note and put it in the mail, knowing it would make my day a little bit brighter. I’d tack them to my bulletin board and smile each time they caught my eye.
In college, the cards meant a lot to me, but now, they’ve taken on a whole new significance. As most of you know, my mom suffered from Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), a form of dementia caused by a disease process in the brain that results in degeneration of nerve cells in the parts of the brain that control our ability to use language. It begins with the slow decline of the ability to use language in speaking, understanding, reading and writing. Other types of mental processes are relatively normal initially and may remain normal for years, but begin to decline with time--in my mother’s case, the decline happened rather quickly. This form of dementia is both rare and without a cure. The early loss of language skills is one of this disease’s cruelest effects. My mother fought an exhausting battle, working every day, for as long as she could, on exercises designed to slow the loss of speech. Despite her incomparable strength, she passed away on July 22, 2011. In her absence, I am so grateful that I have cards, home videos and memories that will preserve her words forever.
My mother was not the only one in our family plagued by this disease. Her mother, Ann, passed away at a very early age from a condition similar to early onset Alzheimer’s, known as Pick’s disease. And we lost my mom’s beloved brother and my dear uncle, Dick McEnany, to early onset Alzheimer’s. The donations raised by this walk are used both for research and to support those families in the community who are affected by the disease. There is so much left to learn about dementia, from the role of genetics to the possibilities for treatment.
For the entirety of her life, my mom took care of our family. In turn, I want to honor her memory, and the memory of my grandmother and uncle, by raising money and awareness. It is my hope that, in our lifetime, we will see a dramatic increase in our understanding of dementia. Please join our team and help us fight in Donna Nimer's memory.
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
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