Jun 212011
 
start
My name is Irene Hammer-McLaughlin. My dad Russ (his real name is Shelton, so you can see why he went by Russ!) died of vascular dementia in January 2005. In October that same year, my mom Stella (we won’t even go into her real name) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Today I’m running for four hours as part of the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day™ because I want to honor my parents, my sister who serves as my mother’s primary caregiver, and all the other families I’ve had the privilege of working with at the Alzheimer’s Association.

One of the smartest things I did for myself and my family was become an Association employee. I have a wonderfully supportive husband and daughter, but still there were times when dealing with mother’s and father’s illnesses that I felt very alone. I didn’t know of many 30-somethings whose parents had forms of dementia. Fortunately, I found an amazing community at the Alzheimer’s Association. This organization has taught me to make lemonade out of lemons, and I will be forever grateful.

I’m starting my run in Hopkinton, Mass., and running (more like wogging – walking and jogging) along the Boston Marathon course from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

You may ask why someone would want to run a solo marathon. (Quite frankly, right now, I’m asking myself that same question!)  Well, I wanted to participate in an activity that shows my commitment to going the distance in the fight against Alzheimer’s. It’s not going to be easy to beat this disease. It’s going to take a lot of minds, money and mobilization to make it happen. But, I have no doubt that, together, we can do it.

So, right now I’m going it alone, but I am hoping that next year, during the longest day of the year, there will be others out there right alongside me, going the distance to beat Alzheimer’s.

Wish me luck!

Irene Hammer-McLaughlin is a major gifts officer with the Alzheimer’s Association.  She enjoys running with her husband Mike and biking with her 12-year-old Sarah. She has completed two Ironman events and several marathons. She is participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day™, a sunrise-to-sunset relay supporting those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Post Run Update
Okay, four hours and shower later, I can reflect on my 22 mile run. No, it wasn’t a full marathon, but you know what? Attempting to run a marathon overweight and untrained is an awful lot like having to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver. No one can tell you what it’s going to be like for you. You have to experience it for yourself. Inevitably, there will be some unexpected obstacles to deal with. (Perhaps not the dead skunk or the Mack truck, but there’s probably a metaphorical equivalent.) And, sometimes, even when you make a solid plan, things can go a little awry (like the fact that my water support person underestimated my speed, so I without water for 8 miles). Nevertheless, you find the humor, you get through it, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

In all seriousness, I’m glad I chose to participate in this challenging effort. Alzheimer’s is tough, and it’s going to take a lot of tough people to eliminate it. I’m honored that I can play a small part, and I hope that after today others will take up the baton, as well.

  53 Responses to “Going a Marathon Distance in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s”

  1. Good luck Irene! Your are not going it alone. You will be in my thoughts and prayers all day. I too am a caregiver for my mother who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and many a night I find myself crying and wondering why? How will I ever get through this.

    • Sandy, thank you for sharing this comment. I just finished my run. Somehow, you do get through it. You're in my thoughts and prayers, too.

  2. Good Luck Irene. I too am a caregiver for my mother who is living with Dementia. It is truly the Long Good bye. I miss her terribly most days. I am with you on this journey today, and too all that posted, your comments have touched my heart and has help me to continue on. Thank you Irene and thank all of you. Stay Encouraged! You all have truly inspired me. Thanks again.

    • Lamonica, thank you for sharing your story with me. Comments like yours got me through the miles. You inspired me, and I am very grateful.

  3. Good luck Irene and thank you for wogging today. The important thing is that you showed up to support the cause. I lost my sister to this dreaded disease. She was diagnosed in her 50's. God bless and remember you are never alone. Godspeed!

    • Hi Maritza,

      Thank you for your well-wishes. I am so sorry about your sister! I just finished my wog, and I have to tell you, it's comments like yours that got me through it. Thank you!

  4. Way to go!! You are a true Champion in every sense of the word. God Bless

  5. Irene… I was 30 something when my Mom had Alzheimer's and it went undiagnosed for quite some time. The isolation I felt was incredible. My thoughts are with you.

    • Hi pep. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just finished my run, and I was thinking about how the experience of running over 20 miles by onesself is very similar to the isolation caregivers sometimes experience. Please know that we are in this race together. My thoughts are with you, too.

  6. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers today and in the many 36 hour days to come.

  7. All the best, you're not alone and we're all with you! – My mum is in the mid stages of this horrific disease… May the wind push you forward, the trainers carry your feet and your parents carry your heart….

    • Hi AdamBowdin,

      Thank you for your comment. I just finished my run, and I have to tell you, knowing that others like you are out there made me keep going. My thoughts are with you as you keep on going, too.

  8. Inspired and humbled by your endeavor. I worked for 25 years in the field of long term care for persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's/Dementia This is a passion to me, and I have 25 years worth of faces and souls in my heart. Only a fraction of these faces and souls are those of the diagnosed…the majority are those of the family members, like yourself, who are so deeply impacted and forced into coping mechanisms of a multitude of styles. I am going to share this with a good friend (in her 30's) who is entering the journey with her father. You are not alone. And I feel sure that your campaign and actions this year, on the longest day, will be the only one that is participating in this "event" in 2012 and following. Keep us posted on how it goes, and what your responses are. ~Sending good energy and the strength and synergy of 25 years worth of faces and souls.

    • Shelley, you are the inspiration. Those who choose to support patients and families like mine are very special in my book. Thank you so much for being there! This has been one heck of a run indeed…

  9. I am an avid runner as well, and have been looking for races to do that support alzheimer's! This is such a good idea! My Grandmother was diagnosed 5 years ago and everyday I see a little bit of her fading away. Thanks for giving me hope!

    • Thank you for sharing your story! This run has been an incredible experience. If anyone wants to run on the Boston Marathon course next year during "The Longest Day," I'm in, too!

  10. Good luck. My husband is suffering from this disease, and I miss him more and more each day.

  11. Thank you. you are doing such a wonderful thing! God Bless you!

    • Jennifer, thank you so much! This run was incredible, and I am honored that you and so many others have been leaving such heartwarming comments. They mean so much to me.

  12. Way to go Irene! Both of my parents suffered from this devastating disease as well. Thank God they have gone to a better place now.

    • Dear Debbie,

      They say that one good thing about this disease is the people you meet along the way. This journey, although so challenging, has been filled with really amazing people. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I hope that you take comfort in knowing your parents are now at peace and that there are a lot of great minds out there trying to pave a smoother road for the future.

  13. Good luck on your run. My father also died with dementia and my mother with Alzheimer's. I understand. God Bless You!

  14. God will bless you! you are doing a great thing.i live in vanc wa.i am going to find out if i can start a walk/run marathon here

    • Wow! This is fantastic. If you do start a marathon out there, please let me know. I very well may like to join you…although probably not this month, or even the next… :)

  15. Good luck, let us know how it went. My father had Alzheimers….it is so difficult when you miss someone who is sitting right in front of you. It makes you realize how prescious memories are…nothing is more valuable.

    • Linda, thank you for sharing your comment with me. You're so right. This disease is just downright mean. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by people who care. It is an honor to be part of this important movement. Thank you for being part of it, too.

  16. Like Whitney, I too am a runner and I'd like to run this marathon with you some day. My parents both suffered from dimentia. My dad passed in 2009 and my mom continues to get worse. To the caregivers… you rock! Please know that you're not alone. GOOD LUCK IRENE!!

  17. Good Luck!!

  18. Good Luck! And thank you for doing this for all of us!!

    • Hi Katie,

      Thank you for submitting a post! It was inspiring to turn on my computer and see how many people took the time to send well wishes. They matter. I appreciate them.

  19. May God bless you. You've inspired me to do this next year in honor of my mother.

  20. God bless you, and in the ones of my mother (deceased 2010 – you had this awful disease) – YOU GO GIRL!

  21. Great job, I lost my father in Alzheimers myself. My hole life turned, I became another person my self. Gooood luck to you, I honor to you doing this. Love from Hilde Olsen

  22. I want to thank everyone of you who posted a comment. Your well wishes, stories, and words of encouragement make a world of difference.

  23. Thank you for what you are doing! I cared for my mom 24hours a day for 3 and a half years. Not a day goes by I don't think of her and what she went through. We have to find a cure, we have to help those who suffer………I'll be thinking of you today! THANKS!

  24. Good luck Irene. We took care of my Father-in-law with Alzheimers and my Mother-in-law with dementia about 10 years ago and now I am caring for my husband with Alzheimers. It is such a terrible illness. My prayers and love go out to you.

  25. God Bless you all….I have a dad who is diagnosed with Dementia and find it almost impossible to accept….My heart is breaking for myself…but I realized how selfish..for my mom is married for 67 years and she has to see and deal with her loss of a best friend everyday. I have feel apart emotionally and can't find any strength within myself…So I look at this and say You Are My Strength and God Be With You…..

  26. You go girl! We're all so proud of you!

  27. Thank you and good luck to you! I am a marathon runner, too. Last year, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on behalf of the Alzheimer's Association and in memory of my Mom. I lost her last March after caring for her for many years. I commend you for running a solo marathon, although you are not alone! I am there with you in spirit. Thank you for all that you do! Keep it up!

  28. Good Luck I lost my mother to Alzheimers 3 years ago ,I was her caregiver for 10 for 10 years ,she would have been 94 June 19th. What a heart breaking illness, God Bless you

  29. Great job Irene!!!! 20 miles is an amazing feat – your story was very inspiring!

  30. Great job, Irene! You are amazing and have been a wonderful colleague to work with. I can't wait to hear the details of your journey.

  31. Thank you! It is so unbelievable to miss someone so much while you are looking right at them. My dad was my mum's caregiver, ignored his own health until he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – he never got to say good-bye to the woman he was married to for 59 years. He died with a broken heart. The bittersweet part was that my mum didn't have to go through the grief. The bitter part, was not being able to remember him with her. Alzheimer's is such a slow progressing disease and the outcome won't change – we have to change that. Remembering the caregivers, remembering the sufferers – but, mostly, remember that we may be lost in their minds, but we remain stuck forever in their hearts.

    Thoughts and thanks with you!

  32. Thank you! It is so unbelievable to miss someone so much while you are looking right at them. My dad was my mum's caregiver, ignored his own health until he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – he never got to say good-bye to the woman he was married to for 59 years. He died with a broken heart. The bittersweet part was that my mum didn't have to go through the grief. The bitter part, was not being able to remember him with her. Alzheimer's is such a slow progressing disease and the outcome won't change – we have to change that. Remembering the caregivers, remembering the sufferers – but, mostly, remember that we may be lost in their minds, but we remain stuck forever in their hearts.

  33. My mother has vascular dementia and I'm her caregiver. I appreciate your talk of the isolation. My brothers live far away and I often feel alone. Your post has prompted me to join a group and get help for myself.
    THANK YOU.

  34. Thank you all for giving me hope. My mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. I am so confused, angry and at times feel resentment. But seeing all the encouraging messages I feel I can carry on with the help of God.

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