Running For A Cause

In principle I am not opposed to “running for a cure” but the cynic/scientist in me can’t help but feel that there is little benefit (scientifically) to these races. Having seen firsthand how much research costs, how slow progress is, and how many failures it takes before you reach moments of success, I can’t help but feel that these events often inspire false hope in participants when they promise that each step you take is one step closer to a cure.

I find instead that what these events are great for is bringing people together; helping survivors and families find support and a community of similarly affected people is something I really can get behind. I think races that focus on building this community rather than letting people believe a cure is just a few years away is not only more realistic, but a kinder approach.

This brings me to the reason for this post.  I have decided to run in a 10K in Calgary Alberta on October 10, 2010 and raise funds to benefit the Calgary Alzheimer’s Society. This society focuses on “[alleviating] the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease”. I really can stand behind that because they help train caregivers, offer a support network of families dealing with the disease, and run Club 36, an adult support group for people dealing with dementia.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that has had a profound impact on my life. My father’s mother, had Alzheimer’s, likely for many years before she passed away in 2005. Losing a loved one is never an easy thing, and this disease prolongs the process, stealing away memories you shared together,  memories of a family, memories of a lifetime. Grandma Hobbs was always a lady, and for awhile did not let on when she became confused about where she was or who she was with – this is why I say she likely suffered for many years from some type of memory loss, though we were unaware of just how early it started.

The last time I saw my grandmother, I went with my family to visit her in her home in Toronto. I was in the beginning of high school and as angst-filled teen I was pretty unhappy about being anywhere with my family. As I sat with her and my family in her entryway she said out loud “Where is father?” We clarified that she was speaking about her own father, as she though that we were all on our way to church together, and just waiting for her father to be ready. My dad had to break it to her that her father had died many years ago. The experience for me as an observer was jarring and I cannot imagine how it must have felt for her to be among a group of people that she did not recognize, wondering when her father would come along – only to find out that he had died years ago.

Sadly, I was not as close with my grandmother as I wish I could have been. We were different types of people, she was ladylike and would make me dresses, which I would begrudgingly wear until she left and then I would switch back to pants and playing in the dirt. I did inherit my love of knitting/yarnwork from her though as she was an avid rug-hooker and had several looms in her home. I also have her attitude towards crafts/projects in that they are only of interest to me while I am doing them and as soon as they are done I can’t give them away fast enough and I’m itching to start another. I also have been graced with the “Bryant chin” from her side of the family, and I get my curly brown hair from her as well.

I don’t want this post to sound like such a downer, because that is not what this is about. I do have some great memories with my grandmother, like when she taught me how to paint my nails, or when we went on a family vacation to China, or when she gave me a dress I really loved (white with purple violets all over). Or even the time where I was showing off my headstands (in a dress she had just given me) and she scolded me for my “unladylike behavior” and I had to ask my mom what that even meant. That still makes me laugh to this day,

I do regret that she could not see me graduate from high school, or university, or watch me grow out of the angsty teenage phase into my angsty 20-something phase. I would like to think that if she were still around today that we’d craft together and she’d teach me how to use her loom and we’d discuss new knitting pattern we’re eager to try over cups of tea and biscuits.

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so online by clicking here. You can also directly donate to the Calgary Alzheimer’s Society by clicking this link. If you would prefer to mail in a check you can email me to get my mailing address. Please consider contributing, no amount is too small, and if you are able to you should sign up for the race at The Running Room – or at stop by and say hi on race day!


About Helen

I am a student at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. I love teaching and learning alongside my students. When I'm not in the classroom I'm exploring Philadelphia. I also like knitting, baking, crafting, reading, running, cooking, and brewing beer. I have a one-eyed dog, and Ms. Frizzle is my hero.
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