I haven’t ged since my Nana died. I can’t begin to explain how hard I’ve been hit by her passing. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – she was an amazing 89 years old, had been suffering with vascular dementia for years and recently suffered from a severe case of pneumonia, from which she never really recovered. In some ways, though, it was completely unexpected, because I expected her to be here forever.
My Nana was wonderful. Full of life and personality. An amazing sense of humour. Quite stubborn. Occasionally rude. Never ‘old’, in that old is a state of mind and nothing to do with age. When she contracted pneumonia she was given two days to live; she proceeded to recover almost completely, and was discharged from the hospital back to the home in which she was being cared for. She died two months later, not of an illness, but of an old heart. As her dementia advanced parts of my Nana started to slip away. Her memories. The rest of a sentence left hanging as she racked her brain to remember where she was. She had moments of clarity, which were precious, hilarious and heartbreaking all at once. I was lucky enough to be able to visit her quite a lot when she was in hospital over the summer and will be forever thankful for that.
Her funeral was on December 20th. The night before, we went through old photos, both ours and the ones she kept. We collated our favourite photos of her in to a big collage to display at the wake. She was beautiful as I knew her, but truly stunning as a younger woman. We had photos of her as a child, her on her wedding day, her as a young mother, her dancing with my grandfather. It pains me to know that this feisty cheeky lady deteriorated as she did. No-one deserves to be robbed of their memories, their ability to communicate or perform basic bodily functions.
Dementia has been in the news recently and was the subject of a G8 summit in London on 11 December. The main issue is that not enough is being done – not enough research, not enough funding, not enough attention. I think Dementia has been largely swept under the rug because to acknowledge it would be to acknowledge our own mortality, which is, generally, uncomfortable. Dementia is something that happens to “old people” – a faceless “them” we can put under the care of others while carrying on with our lives. It doesn’t happen to “us”. When in truth, it does. The likelihood is that every single family in the UK will be affected by dementia. If we put the same effort in to dementia research and cures as we do with other diseases, we can work to reduce the number of people suffering, alleviate the symptoms of those affected and support their carers.
Over the next eight weeks I will be raising funds for the Alzheimers Society through the events I am running here in the Middle East. On January 24th I’ll be running the Dubai Marathon and on 7 February I will take on the Wadi Bih 72km mountain relay race in Oman. Running out here has been a challenge – after our 18 mile training run I felt so sick I couldn’t eat, passed out at home, woke up with a migraine and spent two hours in the dark heaving up bile and lying on my cold bathroom tiles. I thought it was a migraine but now think it was probably an episode of hyponatremia. That’s when nuun use gets serious.
Not only will knowing I am running for a cause will keep me going, but exercise has been shown to prevent the onset of dementia. A double-whammy winner for me and the Alzheimer’s Society. You can sponsor me over on JustGiving if you are so inclined, but if this post raises awareness of dementia then that is ace for me too.