By Menzella Kiser
I walk in honor of my husband, Greg Kiser, who is currently living with Alzheimer’s, and in memory of my mother-in-law, Lois Kiser, who lost her battle with Alzheimer’s on February 7, 2017. This terrible disease impacts people I know and love.
About 3 ½ years ago, my husband, Greg, was officially diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. We’d known a few years prior that something was wrong, but he had been a picture of health – he was only 54 years old, ate healthy, exercised daily, stayed in perfect physical shape. He continued to be a competitive Powerlifter, holding many US and world records. What could possibly be wrong? Finding a doctor to evaluate a seemingly healthy person was also difficult.
Greg was a self-employed diesel mechanic with the ability to fix anything with an engine or transmission. Years ago, I met him through a friend when I was having problems with my car. He knew I was a single mother with a small child who couldn’t afford major repair costs. He stayed up all night and cleaned the rock arms in my car one by one and put my engine back together. He tells me now that he did that because he’d already fallen in love with me. The day I went to pick up my car he was repairing this huge piece of machinery and I was amazed that he had this machine torn to little bitty pieces and he was sitting there calmly putting it back together. All those abilities are now lost to Alzheimer’s.
To live the Alzheimer’s experience with an otherwise healthy person is difficult. I lose a little bit more of him every day. I am encouraged, however, by the great work being done by researchers and doctors and the volunteers who support their efforts to stop this cruel disease. That’s why this walk is so important to us.
Greg has been MY rock for 22 of our 26-year marriage. Now it is time for me to be HIS rock. He now depends upon me to make life decisions for him, to pick out his daily clothing and help with his meals, doctor’s appointments, exercise and even transportation needs. I am fortunate to have someone with him every day, but I do as much as possible in addition to working a full-time job. A great support system is a must or I couldn’t do this. I am blessed with a great manager and awesome support from family on both sides and great friends.
My decision to join this walk is personal. It’s personal because of Greg, but also because I now understand firsthand the human toll on the person, the caregiver, the family and friends. I walk for the hopes of a cure! I walk because I want my husband to grow old with me. I won’t give up that fight. I walk because I want him to see his grandkids grow up to be wonderful adults. I walk because he has such a brilliant mind at stake. I walk because this disease hasn’t given us any choices – so I walk to make choices possible. I walk because I love him.
The River Region Walk to End Alzheimer’s is October 15, 2017. For more information visit www.act.alz.org
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