Brenda Reddick is very likely very unlike any 51-year-olds you might know.
Like many people in their early 50s, she’s a wife and mother. As with many of her age, she’s part of a sandwich generation that has coped with juggling a job (early-childhood educator) and caring for a family. She also has a wide variety of interests and hobbies and enjoys being part of Langley’s diverse community.
But Brenda also has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. So did her father, who died at age 54, only a few years after being diagnosed with dementia. And one of her two brothers, now 55, also has Alzheimer’s disease.
Look at Brenda’s photo, and you’ll see a friendly, outgoing personality reflected in an intelligent face, not the clichéd, frail senior so often portrayed as the “typical” dementia victim. Study her photo, and you’ll wonder how someone so relatively young, so “normal”-looking, could have been handed such a terrifying diagnosis.
The diagnosis is terrifying to both victims and their families because as yet there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Victims and their loved ones both suffer a gradual, agonizing loss.
But Brenda wants to take the fear out of dementia, to educate people about the disease and to help them understand and deal with victims more positively.
That’s why she has decided to become the face of the very first Alzheimer Society Walk for Memories in Aldergrove on January 29. Drawing supporters from Langley and Abbotsford as well as Aldergrove, the event will kick off at noon at Rotary Fieldhouse inside Aldergrove Athletic Park. (Details at www.walkformemories.com, 1-800-667-3742 or, to go straight to our Aldergrove walk, http://www.alzheimerbc.org/getdoc/fdc38a6e-14a4-428d-b158-d080f90221ef/Langley.aspx.)
Walks for Memories, sponsored by the Investors Group and backed by Black Press, take place all around the province every year on the last Sunday in January. January is Alzheimer Awareness Month. There are no set distances and walks take place outdoors and indoors. Teams and individuals gather as a community to fundraise for Alzheimer research and support, and to spread awareness of the disease and of the help available for the more than 70,000 B.C. individuals and families now afflicted. As the baby-boom generation moves into the senior age bracket, it is very likely that B.C.’s dementia toll will rise significantly.
Not only is Brenda living with Alzheimer’s, she has also survived breast cancer and resulting surgery that went awry. But with cancer, while there is fear, more often there is hope. For many victims, there is remission, there is the prospect of a life ahead. With cancer, society is generally better educated about what to do and say.
Brenda knows that Alzheimer’s can be hereditary and what that means for her two sons, now 25 and 23. She watched her father die and saw her mother’s friends “disappear — because they were scared and didn’t know what to do or what to say.”
Instead of avoiding contact with someone with dementia, Brenda says, we need to remember that we are a very caring, tolerant society. She was raised in North Delta, with two brothers and a sister, in a civic-minded, church-going family. “We helped each other back then.”
“It’s best to talk about dementia,” Brenda says. “We can’t pretend it’s not happening. We can’t walk away from the disease.”
Her advice to anyone concerned about someone showing symptoms of dementia: “Get informed. Take some of the fear out of it.
“There is no blueprint for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments and there is a lot of support.
“Stay healthy and eat well.
“And help raise funding for research, so the scientists can do their job and that maybe one day we won’t have this cloud hanging over us.”
If you would like to help a very brave woman help thousands of other British Columbians by funding the research needed to find a cure, please sign up (it’s free) for the 2012 Langley-Aldergrove-Abbotsford Walk for Memories. Set a fundraising goal and encourage your family and friends to do the same. If you can form a team — because it can be fun to be part of a group — you can even compete with other teams to raise the most cash.
The Aldergrove park event will be family- and pet-friendly, with music and face-painting and a fire truck for the kids. The paths are wheelchair-friendly and on clear days there are majestic views of Mt. Baker. (The walk is set to go ahead whether there are clear skies or not!)
Let’s see whether our caring community can show its support for Brenda and make its first-ever Walk for Memories a great success.
By JANET INGRAM-JOHNSON, special to The Aldergrove Star