Every now and then a national challenge organised by the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity pops up; one that I feel I can realistically get involved with. February’s walk a mile a day challenge was one of those, and it came with a free orange beanie to boot!
You’d think a mile a day would be easy but the fact that I had to fit in a 20 minute walk each and every day, come rain or shine, became a good discipline. Some days, I walked four or five miles at a leisurely pace, other days it was a quick dash around the block in the rain – or Storm Eunice!
Double the target
I quickly decided to double the target to 56 miles to set the bar a little higher, and I made it an excuse to catch up with friends by putting the invitation out for people to join me. This also meant I got to walk in different areas and enjoy different scenery, often that I’d not seen before.
My challenger, Michelle Smith, and her sister are in training for a marathon walk in the summer so they invited me to join them on a 10k walk along the river. That stands out as my longest walk in the month and it kicked off their training in style. The river towpath featured a lot in my walks; it’s one of my favourite places to be.
We were approaching the end of the month when I got the dreaded call from the nursing home to say that my Mum was very poorly and I should go to be by her side as she was end of life. We’d had a few false alarms over the last few years, but it seemed like this was different.
I then spent three days and nights camped out at her bedside. I’ll admit it took me a couple of days to accept that this was the end; she’d rallied previously so why should this time be different? But on day two, I had to acknowledge that she was fading. I’m eternally grateful that I could be at her side day and night because I could hold her hand, chat to her, reassure her, and ensure she was as comfortable as possible at all times.
She passed peacefully the next morning; my lovely Mum lost her battle with this cruel disease on Sunday 27th February 2022. Her passing brought an end to a horrible ten year journey with dementia for Mum, and 20 years with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s dementia for my Dad, who died four years ago.
Throughout all of this, my friends have provided amazing support. Even though Mum’s nursing home was some 75 miles from my home, I’m lucky enough to have a network of friends in the town she lived in, and they totally stepped up to be by my side through this. They also walked with me every day. I was determined to continue my 28 day walking challenge, and my strolls became a good way to take some time out from the 24 hour vigil, and get some fresh air.
Don my orange beanie
The only day I didn’t proudly don my orange beanie and complete my walk was the day Mum passed. By the end of the month, I’d completed 57.4 miles, discovered some new places and taken lots of lovely photos.
Perhaps the thing that made this challenge really special was the Facebook group set up to include the five and a half thousand people across the country who were all taking part in the challenge at the same time. We were united by our ARUK branded orange beanies and our combined goal to raise money to fund research into dementia. We were also united by the fact that dementia had touched most of our lives in one way or another.
I found great support in the group during Mum’s last few days. I wasn’t the only one to have lost a loved one to this cruel disease during the month, and I felt slightly less alone in my grief for knowing that.
It seems apt that this was my 25th challenge. My half way point; a pivotal moment. I’m now more determined than ever to complete all 50 challenges, increase awareness around this devastating disease and raise as much money as I can to help fund vital research.
In memory of my Mum, I will continue to do my bit to help bring about a breakthrough.