Soon after I started dating my now-husband, a handsome gentleman named Pete, his mother, Carolyn, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 51. At the time, I didn't really know what that meant - I had only met his mother a few times and she seemed pretty healthy to me. Over the course of the next eight years, I witnessed her disease progress, slowly at first, but eventually at a much quicker pace. After using in-home care for a number of months, Pete's family made the difficult decision to move Carolyn into a nursing home in 2011.
When it came time for me to choose a charity to run the marathon for, Athletes to End Alzheimer's was the obvious choice. I have often felt helpless, not knowing what to say to Pete or his family during the rough times, but running and raising money for research is a concrete way of doing something. There are advances in Alzheimer's research and treatments every day, and though they may not directly help my mother-in-law, I have faith that they will help many other families fight this disease.
I began training for the NYC Marathon on June 24th, but on June 30th, my training changed. Team Athletes to End Alzheimer's didn't send out a new schedule; I didn't tweak things on my own; I didn't get injured. The plan itself with its mileage totals and technical workouts wasn't altered at all, but my experience as I go through the months leading up to November 3rd would be very different from that day on.
On June 30th, my mother-in-law passed away due to complications from early onset Alzheimer's disease.
Without getting overly maudlin, I'll say that her passing giving me new motivation: I'm not just running in Carolyn's honor, I'm running in memory of her. I'm running for her brothers and sisters, for her nieces, and for her sons and daughter, because the disease very clearly runs in their family (which is something I don't really like to talk about, for obvious reasons). I'm even running for my future children, because I can only hope that by the time they're around, there are more treatment options and, heck, maybe even a cure.
Watching my boyfriend, then my fiance, then my husband interact with his mother as she slipped further away was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I hate that he lost his mother at such a young age (for them both) and that I never really had a relationship with my mother-in-law. The times I choose to remember are those when we would visit her and Pete would make her laugh, or she’d lock eyes with me and I knew she recognized me as one of her People. I run for Team ATEA so that more families can have more of those moments as we all join together to fight Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more about my marathon training here: http://anothermarathonblog.blogspot.com/