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Springfield IL Walk to End Alzheimer’s September 22, 2012

1 Walk to End Alzheimers Springfield IL Sep 22 2012Many enthusiastic and passionate supporters came out on a sunny and fiercely windy morning in Southwind Park for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 22, 2012 in Springfield, Illinois. Not only was the event a fundraiser, but it was also a moving tribute to those who currently suffer from or care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

A dog shows support for the Walk to End Alzheimers Springfield IL Sep 22 2012

I volunteered to help find people who might be interested in participating in clinical research trials, and in this role was reminded how much fear is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. As I walked through the crowd and talked to attendees, I was greeted with much anxiety and heard often, “No, I don’t want to ever know if I might get Alzheimer’s disease.” This response reinforced the need to find a cure for me because people are so afraid of this devastating illness.

The crowd at  Walk to End Alzheimers Springfield IL Sep 22 2012A touching speech was made by a woman  in her fifties who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease three years ago and her caregiver husband, both of whom stressed fighting as long as possible and dealing with the diagnosis as best they could.

Colorful pinwheels were given to participants and held proudly to designate roles of those in attendance – purple for those who have lost loved ones, blue for those currently living with Alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers, and orange for advocates. These pinwheels spun out of control at times as the wind gusted. I thought this was a lovely symbol of solidarity but noticed only a couple of blue pinwheels in the crowd. Purple and yellow pinwheels were represented the most, and I proudly held my purple pinwheel in memory of my own mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in 2009.

Pinwheel from Walk to End Alzheimers Springfield IL Sep 22 2012The walk after the brief rally was somber and befitting the occasion as we all walked together around Southwind Park, each silently hopeful that some day there will be a cure found to stop the suffering from this horrible and frightful disease. I thought about my mother and family as I walked on their behalf, and I reflected on my greatest wish the entire time. Please let there be a world without Alzheimer’s disease for my children and their children.

 

Walk To End Alzheimer’s 2012 in Springfield IL

Walk To End Alzheimer's 2012Walk to end Alzheimer’s? Heck, I’d skip, somersault, cartwheel, dance the jig, or sprint if it would help more to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease! I’ve signed up and plan to participate once again in the Walk To End Alzheimer’s in Springfield, Illinois. It’s a fantastic event to raise awareness of the disease, fundraise for research and support, and the walk is a great opportunity to meet others in your community who have been affected by this mind-robbing disease. Every little bit helps, and I’m looking forward to doing my part for our local Walk To End Alzheimer’s on September 22. I better start practicing that jig, just in case!

Has Alzheimer’s disease impacted your life? If so, please find and attend a Walk To End Alzheimer’s in your area for support and encouragement from others facing the same hardships.

Family Caregivers Local Author Event at Barnes and Noble

It was such a treat to participate in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers book signing yesterday at Barnes & Noble as a contributing author along with Jean Ferratier. I want to thank the Springfield, Illinois Barnes & Noble for hosting this local author event, and I’d especially like to thank everyone who came by to see us over the two hours we were at the bookstore. Jean and I both had the opportunity to discuss and read excerpts from our stories. I feel so fortunate to have my story included in this book, and it was wonderful to talk with other caregivers and hear their feedback on my story. So many people shared their own caregiving stories, and it was a privilege to be entrusted with this personal information. Here are some photos that capture this special event celebrating family caregivers everywhere.

 

Chicken Soup for the Springfield Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul Family Caregivers full book cover

Here is the story behind my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers – Kathleen H. Wheeler

Chicken Soup for the Soul inspirational book series responsible for bringing two Springfield, Illinois writers together as friends and contributing authors in new Family Caregivers release.

Ladle up a double bowl of chicken soup with a distinct Springfield flavor courtesy of local authors Kathleen H. Wheeler and Jean Ferratier. Both of these central Illinois writers have stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers to be released on March 13, 2012. The newest title in the inspirational book series includes 101 stories of love, sacrifice and bonding as support and encouragement to family members caring for loved ones with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

It is more than just a coincidence that Wheeler and Ferratier are featured together in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers. The inspirational book series is actually responsible for bringing these two authors together in the first place. Wheeler introduced herself to Ferratier after learning about her publication in Think Positive through the local newspaper.

“Jean and I share common interests and life experiences, and I felt certain she was someone I needed to get to know better,” says Wheeler. “We were both caregivers for mothers afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and we both felt it was necessary to write about the life-changing lessons we learned from that experience. I contacted Jean through LinkedIn, and our relationship progressed naturally from that point.”

After corresponding and sharing advice, the two stayed in touch, eventually met, and attended an author lecture together. When a call for entries in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers went out, Ferratier urged Wheeler to submit a story for consideration along with hers.

Fortunately, stories from both Ferratier and Wheeler were selected for inclusion in the book, and the two friends are thrilled to share the spotlight together as featured authors in the same publication.

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Cutting-Edge Alzheimer’s Treatments, Counseling and Care

I just read an article in the local Springfield, IL newspaper about the cutting-edge treatments, counseling and care offered to Alzheimer’s disease patients at SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.  As this horrible disease has personally affected every member of my family since my mother’s diagnosis in 2000 to her death in 2009, I’m grateful to see dementia research being done right here in my own home town. Currently a clinical trial is underway at SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease for a new drug called bapineuzumab with hopes it will slow the progression of brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s. Only 5,000 Alzheimer’s patients worldwide are currently being tested with this new drug, and some of them are right here in Springfield, Illinois. One gentleman participating in the trial named Ben Poore is profiled in the article. God bless him!

This article also cited an interesting statistic I have not seen previously: 5,000 Illinoisans in Sangamon County alone are currently afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.  That number seems like a lot to me and is roughly 2.5% of the county’s 195,716 population.  It reminds me I am not alone in my experience with this devastating illness, even in my own little neck of the woods.

Source and image courtesy State Journal-Register, “Support center: SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders gives patients access to cutting-edge treatments, counseling and care”, January 5, 2011
Image: SIU School of Medicine
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