I come from a loving and supportive family. I have always been close to my mom, Liz. She has a degree in early childhood education, and she gave her full attention to raising my sister Kate and me. Our home was filled with activity. She taught us songs, played games with us, and took us to swim team and play dates. My mom has a special relationship with our friends as well. (She gave my friends nicknames that have stuck with them to this day!) While I was away at college we should speak almost daily, and I could expect to receive a care package or card every week. “Just because!” she would write.
By the time I graduated in the spring of 2009, those calls had become less frequent. It was clear that something wasn’t quite right. My mom was starting to forget important dates and repeat herself. In the fall of 2010, just before her 57th birthday, she was diagnosed with dementia. No matter how much you are expecting a diagnosis like that, absolutely nothing can ever prepare you for it.
Up until two months ago, not that many people in my life knew that my mom has dementia. Because of that, I struggled with my decision to participate in The Longest Day, an Alzheimer’s Association event to raise awareness and funds for programs, support and research. I was scared that I would get asked questions that I wasn’t prepared to deal with, and more than anything I was scared about how “real” this would make everything.
With the support of my family and my boyfriend, I signed up with the objective of raising the $1,600 team goal by myself. I had no idea how many people would rally around me. As of today, the day before The Longest Day, my team, the Cape Cod Alzstars, has raised more than $33,000 for the fight to end Alzheimer’s. I am so thankful to know such generous and thoughtful people!
Tomorrow, on the longest day of the year, we will be waking up bright and early to tackle the Cape Cod Bike Trail. We are also putting on The Longest Day Fishing Tournament, which will be followed by an amazing BBQ and a night surrounded by friends, family and even people we will be meeting for the first time—all of us bonded by a connection to Alzheimer’s.
More than anything, I want my mom’s dementia to go away. I can only hope that the money raised by everyone who participates in The Longest Day will help us get closer to a cure and will prevent other families from having to go through this.
It’s been three years since I first heard the diagnosis, and I am still trying to wrap my head around the challenges that face my mom, and my dad as her primary caregiver. While making the decision to participate in this event was not easy for me, I am so incredibly glad that I did. Knowing that we are not alone—that others are standing with us—helps as we try to adapt to a new life and an uncertain future.
Tomorrow is about you, Mom. I’m in it until Alzheimer’s is finished.
About the blog author: Molly Waugh is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 21, 2013, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Click here to follow Molly and her team, “Cape Cod Alzstars,” during this 16-hour event.