Monday, September 12, 2011

SPOTLIGHT: Denise Kitchel (from Baltimore, Maryland)

Each week we will be picking members to spotlight to tell their Alzheimer's story and why they are running in this year's New York City marathon. Check in each Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for new updates on who will be spotlighted and get to know your teammates...(each person is picked at random)

My mom has been battling early-onset dementia for almost 10 years. Today, she lives in a peaceful facility in a rural setting. She has no memory—no recollection of her husband, 5 children, 7 grandchildren or anyone else who touched her life. The years leading up to this late stage were difficult, to say the least, for everyone involved, especially my mom.

In early 2011, with “the big 40” staring me in the face, I decided I wanted to do something meaningful. Getting involved with the Alzheimer’s Association seemed like a natural fit. But, as my mom ingrained in her children, you don’t merely get involved. You do as much as you possibly can to make a difference. That’s when I decided to pursue team Run2Remember, and I’m so happy to have been invited to participate.

While completing my first marathon (with a husband, two young children, a demanding job and other commitments) will be a great personal accomplishment, the fundraising is even more important. I’m doing as much as I possibly can to make a difference in the lives of others—others who may have a chance to know their families and friends longer than my mom knew hers.

My mom is an unsung hero. She dedicated her whole self to her husband and children. (We are all college graduates, some with master’s and doctorates.) She ran a successful business. She gave to her community. She was an accomplished pianist. She was happiest with her kids by her side.

There is no greater platform than the NYC Marathon to honor my mother and let the world know what a hero she is. Some days I feel profoundly sad that I didn’t tell my mom more often how much I appreciated her commitment to others and how proud of her I was. She was an amazing person, and she makes me want to be amazing too.

I guess you could say that participating on this team is allowing me to be a proactive griever. I haven’t been vocal about my mom’s dementia until now. While she is still alive, every time I visit her, the grieving cycle repeats. That is the curse of this disease. But it propels me forward with my fundraising, my running (especially the long runs!) and my awareness building. I believe I’m beginning to make a difference, and that feels good.

The other morning, my three-year-old daughter started her day with this statement: “Nana’s never going to get better.” She is right. Her grandmother/my mother is never going to get better. But we are driven by the hope that a cure will allow others to get better one day.

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