Why I'm Walking to End Alzheimer's
2018 Walk to End Alzheimer's - Brooklyn, NY - September 23, 2018
They say people come in and out of our lives for a reason. But that reason isn't always clear until much later in our lives.
I met my best friend in 8th grade. We bonded over hair styles and hair bands and were quickly inseparable, our friendship earning the nickname "the Bobbsey twins." But more than gaining a best friend, I gained a second family.
A Very Special Relationship with a Friend and a Family
To me, "Mr. Doran" (Mike) was the coolest of the cool. I can still picture him sitting in his recliner, watching tv, and shaking his head at some crazy antic the teenage girls had gotten into.
When my friend and I had a falling out that lasted way too long, he would say four magic words to me that brought us back together. "You should call her." Simple, quiet, effective, laid-back, unobtrusive. That was Mike.
Adding to his cool factor, Mike was an accountant, just like my own dad! After retiring from the Air Force and settling in Vermont, he worked for several years in various superintendent offices around the State.
Upon moving to Las Vegas he eventually became the State Director of Operations at March of Dimes. I remember him telling me about his job at MOD and it was clear that he was passionate about the cause.
Alzheimer's Enters the Picture
And then unexplainable things started to happen. The 10 signs of Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association (Alz.org) are:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things, losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgement
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality
When the Alzheimer's diagnosis came, I could only watch from 3,000 miles away as my friend became the primary caregiver for her father, at an age much younger than any of us would expect to be caring for a parent and with a young family of her own.
A Devastating Diagnosis with Terrifying Implications
I heard the gut-wrenching stories that seemed to be occurring with greater frequency and it became clear to me that someway, somehow, a cure must be found. If not in time to save Mike, then in time to save my friend, her kids, her brother and his kids, the kids' kids... because this disease is genetic.
The last time I saw Mike, two years before his death, he didn't remember me. I'd like to say I didn't expect him to, but there's always that glimmer of hope. After all, we'd been in each other's lives for 30 years!
Turning Fear Into Action
Per the Alzheimer's Association, 5.7 MILLION Americans are living with Alzheimer's! This number is expected to more than double in the next 30 years. As the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
On September 23, I will head to Brooklyn, NY to participate in the Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer's in honor of my friend and second dad, Mike Doran.
Alzheimer's walks happen all over the country. In fact, there is one here in Shelburne, Vermont on September 16th. So why travel to Brooklyn?
The reason is simple: Mike grew up in Brooklyn and still has family there. We hope to honor him in the best way possible by walking in his hometown, with his family, walking streets he would have walked as a young man.
I believe Mike came into my life for two reasons:
Always call the person you love, no matter what, and
Always be passionate about your career
Also, be sure to watch The Today Show on the morning of the 22nd as we will be waking up before the sun to don our #ENDALZ hats and head to Rockefeller Center in hopes of some camera time. Awareness is the key!
Together, we can end Alzheimer's disease. Please join my team and make a donation to advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association.
Thank you for joining the fight against Alzheimer's!