Hello! My name is Darlene Berg. I’m a personal trainer from Southern California, so health and fitness are extremely important to me, just as they were to my Bachan (Japanese for Grandma). Today, June 20, I am doing 16 hours of continuous activity to fight Alzheimer’s.
This cause is one of the closest things to my heart because my Bachan passed away on January 25, 2012, from Alzheimer’s disease. It was an incredibly challenging and devastating disease to watch my Bachan experience. She had no idea what dementia was or that she was a victim of it, rather she continuously questioned her state of mind. This is something that no one should ever have to do, but those with this disease experience it multiple times a day.
I, as well as my other family members, remained by her side throughout her entire journey with the many stages of this disease. I could never dream of not being with her, especially during those years.
She continues to be my daily inspiration, my role model for being a strong woman, and my example of true unconditional love. She was a woman of great dignity, who didn’t like to be told what to do and had a never-give-up attitude, even to her last evening. On January 24, she opened her eyes at 9:00 p.m. and kept them gazed ahead until past midnight. I knew later that she asked her God to send someone to give her family comfort enough to leave her side for a few hours so that she could finally let go. At 4:48 a.m. on January 25, 2012, with only her nurse by her side, she took her last breath. She loved her family so dearly, and never wanted to subject us to what this disease had caused and definitely did not want to let go in our presence. This is exactly how my Bachan wanted to go, on her terms.
I carry her picture with me and every time I get into my car I look at her beautiful, smiling face. I miss her more than I have ever experienced before. I fight for a cure because she fought for her life.
Everything that I watched her experience during her time with Alzheimer’s leaves me with two thoughts. First, those with dementia love us and still need love. And second, the strength you must have to live with this disease is unlike any we can fathom.
My other grandmother has dementia, possibly of the Alzheimer’s type, as well as Parkinson’s. She is an amazingly loving woman with such a positive mind set and gentle personality. She said to me recently, “It’s okay to forget things from the past because you will remember them when you need to.” I have been so fortunate in my life to be so close to my wonderful grandparents and create such loving relationships with them.
And they are why I am participating in The Longest Day. I feel it’s the least I can do to bring awareness to the hours, days, months, and years of loss, agony, confusion, and pain my Grandmothers have or will experience. Those with Alzheimer’s endure so many challenges. In a small way, being part of this event, keeps my Bachan’s fight going. I am inspired fully by the unconditional love I have for both my Grandmas.
I began The Longest Day Challenge on a hike in Sierra Madre, Calif., with my mom and brother. We hiked to a place that is special to my family and Bachan. Next, I will bike to the 24 Hour Fitness in Glendora, where I will meet several clients/friends for a Yoga class. Then, I will bike ride to the 24 Hour Fitness in Upland, where a personal trainer will be doing a group workout. Finally, I will ride to the 24 Hour Fitness in Ontario, where I will participate in three Group X classes and a boot camp put on by a trainer. From there, I will ride to a park in the complex that I live in. This is where I sat after a long run, three days after my Bachan passed.
On that evening, filled with emotion, I looked up, and there was a cross, so clear with the beautiful mountains in the background — a sign my Bachan is now my angel. Tonight, this is where I will release my lantern and reflect on the women who have been influential in who I am, and who inspire me to have strength and unconditional love.
Alzheimer’s is a top 10 disease that has no way to treat or cure it. I’ve experienced the mind robbing, hallucinating, aggressive behavior that this devastating disease inflicts on a loved one, so my passion runs deeply for support of the Alzheimer’s Association. There needs to be as many resources as possible to better the quality of life of those affected.
If you are passionate about something, then you will find a way to accomplish it, overcome it, focus on it, or make it happen. I have passion for finding treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s. The Longest Day Challenge has allowed me to find a way to take action for this cause that I believe in. This is about finding a passion bigger than ourselves and taking action.
Darlene Berg is a personal trainer in Southern California. Today, she is participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day™, to raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s. Click here to support Darlene during this 16-hour event.