I am walking for my mom Shirley Mae Mills who has been battling Alzheimer’s for the past 9 years. I first noticed my mom wasn’t herself in the beginning of 2008. She had always been a person who is on top of everything and everybody. She started losing her keys, her cellphone, becoming a bit paranoid as well as very moody. It has been hard over the last few years to see my she-hero fight a losing battle because at this time there is no cure. My mom has always been very independent, outgoing, and a go-getter and this disease has robbed her of that. Not only has Alzheimer’s robbed her of who she use to be, it has also robbed her of enjoying her children and grandchildren. As her only daughter, the last few years have been extremely hard on me. I got married in December of 2013. Although my mother was able to attend my wedding, she wasn’t able to help me plan my wedding, host a bridal shower in our hometown, and be the “Mother of the Bride” that she would have been if she was completely healthy. It wasn’t that she didn't want to help me but simply because she couldn’t remember that I was getting married. In order to plan for the big day, my father and I plotted and planned out everything in order to make sure we were able to get her to Maryland for my wedding day. It’s difficult for a person suffering from this disease to be taken out of their everyday environment and go to another city even for a few days. It causes more confusion in their mind and can cause them to wander. We had some challenges that weekend because she didn’t know where she was and she wanted to go home. I had to explain to her over and over again that she was here for my wedding and she couldn’t go home yet. At the end of the day, she enjoyed seeing her old friends and family and was able to enjoy moments of my day. I am walking on October 13th for all future “brides to be” who has a loved one battling with disease.
There are two significant times in a daugthers life where you need and want your mom by your side. Those days are your wedding day and the day you give birth to your first child. Once again my mom and I were robbed of experiencing another life changing event together. I gave birth to my first baby on January 16, 2015 with my husband by my side but wished I also had my mom there as well. My father passed away three weeks before my daughter Maya was born and my mom wasn’t able to come and be with me due to her illness. I remember when I told her that I was pregnant. I wrote in a Mother’s Day card that my husband and I were expecting and her response wasn't what I had expected to hear. My mom wasn’t trying being mean and I knew she didn’t intend to hurt my feelings. Her mind just didn’t allow her to be in the present and remember that I am now a grown woman who was married and financially able to take care of a baby. In her mind, I was still a teenager in high school and not able to take care of a baby. Alzheimer’s disease effects everyone differently and my mom constantly would forget I was an adult. It is very easy to have a conversation with an Alzheimer’s patient about their past because their long term memory is still intact while their short term memory is completely gone. Although I didn’t have my mom or dad at that time, I had my amazing husband and my two best friends who came to be with me. On October 13th, I am walking for those future “new moms” who have a loved one battling this disease and need their mom/dad by their side either in the delivery room or when they bring their baby home.
Due to the decline of my mom’s health, the last few years have been very difficult for my family. . We have accepted that and have learned to live in the moment and enjoy our “moments” with her. I go to North Carolina on a regular basis to spend time with her and so she can spend time with her granddaughter. She literally LIGHTS up like a Christmas tree when she sees my daughter Maya. They have an amazing connection. She knows in the moment that Maya is her granddaughter. She can’t call her name, doesn’t know how old she is, or even her favorite things but she DOES know that she is her grandbaby and that’s all that matters to me. God has allowed her to see me become a mom and I am forever grateful for that. The first time I brought my daughter home to meet my family Maya was 6 weeks old. I remember rocking Maya to sleep and my mom was watching me and in the softest and sweetest voice she said, “you are a good mom.” Those words were music to my ears and I will never forget that moment. I take lots of pictures and videos of her with my daughter so I am able to show her when she is older. We also fill my mom's room with lots of pictures of her family so she knows she is loved. It is helpful to have lots of old photos around a person suffering from this disease because it helps stir up happy thoughts and can give them something to talk about.
I am sharing our story with one sole purpose in mind, which is to bring awareness to this disease as well as to the many caregivers and family members who are affected on a daily basis. If you able to join #teamshirleymae and walk with us on October 13th, it would be greatly appreciated. If you can’t join the walk, a donation of any amount would help continue the fight against this horrible disease. I am hopeful a cure will be found which could help save someone else’s mom, dad, grandmom, grandfather, brother, sister and friend.
Together, we can advance research to treat and prevent Alzheimer's, provide programs and support to improve the lives of millions of affected Americans.
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