Purpose is probably one of a walker’s best companions. When walking in this year’s “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, my purpose was talking to me.
Because Alzheimer’s disease lives inside of me, I have a real need to walk to raise funds and awareness to find some answers. Find a cure. I was also the key note speaker, the one setting an example of what people who have the disease can do. Purpose was telling me to write a good speech from the heart, to reach those afflicted by the disease, their friends, family, and support group.
My support group was at the Walk with me including my loving husband Dan, my son Michael, his wife Kelly, their sons – my grandsons, Ian, age 4 and his brother, Kipton, almost 2, our daughter, Julie, with a baby that is due to be born in December, and my son-in-law Joe. Also by my side was my life-long friend from High School, Lynne Zacharias, who drove all the way from Iowa to walk with me at her Alma mater, Mount Mary University.
I’ve learned a few things from my journey that I’d like to share. Do not shut down and feel sorry for yourselves. If you are faced with any adversity – losing a job, a friend, a spouse, a child. Take time be sad or mad. Take time to cry, mourn, stomp your feet, slam a door. Whatever makes you let off the steam. Take time to recover.
And then get strong and battle.
For me it was the diagnosis of having Alzheimer’s disease. Because of it, I was given something positive. That is the friendships I have made in my Alzheimer’s support group, the loving, caring responses of my family and close friends and more time in prayer talking to God. These are the gifts.
And because of this I will continue to hug the friends in my group. Call them to see how they are doing. Share feelings, laugh and cry with them. I will appreciate the strength of my husband, the laughter, tears, talks and love we share each day. I will continue to Walk to End Alzheimer’s. It is my purpose and hopefully I will be able to deliver another speech to give others with the disease the courage to carry on and continue to be the best they can be.
~ Barbara Cheek Johnson is a journalist living with early-stage Alzheimer’s ~