John Read tells us how he is raising money for Alzheimer’s research.
Like thousands of people, I have lost a relative to Alzheimer’s. This is a wicked illness seemingly ‘designed’ by a twisted psychopath to cause as much suffering in the most horrible way – to as many people as possible. The person you love is lost to you long before the end arrives. All that is left is an empty shell that once contained a proud and dignified loved one. Relatives are forced to witness the agonizing journey towards a living death.
Early stages can be deceptively funny. Putting the house keys in the fridge and laughing about it. But then come the 3am wanderings in pyjamas; being bought home by the police. The memory loss is not funny when your own parent doesn’t know who you are. Which of Satan’s devils thought that up?
Then comes the out of character behaviour, as though your loved is possessed by a stranger, altering between vacancy, demanding, childlike, obnoxious, or even violent. Just to twist the knife comes a glimmer of the loving person you once knew, like the sun coming out for a minute on a rainy day. This only makes you wonder if that person is trapped inside somewhere, like an innocent prisoner in Alcatraz. The Spanish Inquisition would have been proud of that torture.
A few years ago I tried to raise a modest £1,000 for Alzheimers Research by doing the Welsh 3000s, UK Challenge. The challenge was to climb 15 Welsh mountains in 24 hours. As I hadn’t been near a mountain in 40 years this was a stupid task to even try. But the memory of a lost relative, the determination to do ‘something’ and a comfortable armchair are great motivators.
Unsurprisingly, I failed. It didn’t help that we started climbing the biggest mountain, Snowdon as it was getting dark. The experienced climbers went off like mountain goats leaving the novices behind. Have you ever been up a mountain in the dark? It’s like a windowless cellar at midnight. We virtually climbed Snowdon on our knees, groping for each foot and handhold, having no idea where we were or where we were going. When dawn broke and we looked back on our route, we realised how seriously close we had been to being killed. Thousand feet drops just a footstep away. But what a dawn. What a view. Everyone should experience the sun coming up on a summer morning in the mountains. Beauty really is out there.
Eventually, after eight more mountains, I had to quit when time, energy and the will to live ran out. Nine out of fifteen isn’t bad after a 40 year gap, but it meant I only raised £600 – half my target. Ever since, I’ve been thinking of more sedate ways to raise the other £400 without nearly killing myself.
Hopefully I can now do it. I’ve been writing for many years with work in TV, radio, magazines and newspapers around the world. Now I have written a book: The Man Who Couldn’t Stay Dead, a collection of twelve original short stories. It’s available in paperback £4.57 and e.book 75p and it’s getting rave reviews. It can be obtained from www.amazon.co.uk
For the remainder of 2014 I am donating 50% of royalties from the book to The Alzheimers Society, which will be 35 years old this December. This excellent organisation provides much needed support for families of Alzheimers sufferers.
If you’ve read this far, I guess you must care about this subject. So please help to keep The Alzheimers Society going for another thirty five years and ease the awful hardship of families who suffer as much if not more than the actual victim. You will also have a very enjoyable book to read.