My name is Rudy Tjiong and I come from a family of 3 (including my parents). About five years ago, during a visit to my cousin’s home, my mom got lost within the house. What seemed like a harmless incident of forgetfulness was the beginning of what has become a long journey into the world of dementia. It was three years ago that my mom, Christina Tjiong, was officially diagnosed with dementia and more specifically, Alzheimer’s disease. It was quite honestly a dreaded diagnosis, for we knew that there was no cure and that there was only one direction this could go…downward. From that time on, she has never been the same. Losing the essence and core of the person you once knew is probably the most difficult aspect of Alzheimer’s. It was very difficult to process how this could happen, as up to this point, my mom had been blessed with good health. But as my family has been finding out, Alzheimer’s does not discriminate who it targets.
What started out as forgetfulness about basic things has now progressed into emotional swings, day dreaming, delusions, and the inability to walk and take care of herself on her own. Her decline has been fairly rapid, but mom is surrounded and supported by many who love her. My mom is blessed to have my dad, Eng Tjiong, as her primary caregiver, together with wonderful round –the-clock caregivers who ensure that her quality of life is as fulfilling and blessed as possible.
As you might expect, Alzheimer’s disease does not only impact the person with the illness. It touches all those around them, perhaps even more than the person themselves. Although my mom is usually in good spirits, there are now days where she no longer recognizes me or forgets my name. This is very tough to have the person who raised me not know who I am. She often jokes that I only visit once a year (even though I visit several times a week). My mom has always been a very kind-hearted and thoughtful person so it is strange to see her become a different person as the disease worsens.
It has been through my mom’s illness that I have become aware of how many people are affected by this terrible disease. While I know at this time there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, I am running the 2012 New York Marathon, in honor of my mom and to raise awareness for the disease. In addition, I am running the Marathon as part of the Alzheimer’s Association team to raise funds to help further their research, raise awareness, and most importantly, fund a cure! Running the marathon will certainly be a tough and arduous challenge for me. Perhaps some might find running 26.2 miles an impossible task! But I believe it is symbolic of the fight against this disease. While it may seem like a losing battle, I choose not to give up hope that we can eventually conquer Alzheimer’s.