Editor’s note: Mark Perry wrote this open letter to encourage the public to support the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer's. He has hope his personal story will inspire others to give to the cause.
There is a disease that is rapidly spreading across America.
It is epidemic; it is pandemic.
Its aggressive nature mimics the worst of all diseases even though it is not contagious.
There are no famous spokespersons who are survivors to speak out and raise national awareness, because there are no survivors; there is not a cure.
It has a 100 percent mortality rate and those who have the disease rarely ever know that they have it.
It is a progressive predator that seems to randomly strike its victims with slow taunting symptoms and a devastating aftermath of hurt, frustration and sadness.
The disease is Alzheimer’s and it struck my mother.
My mother, Ann Perry, is one of 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed six years ago and has slowly lost herself in the intervening years.
To do my part to fight this horrible disease, I walk each year in the Walk to End Alzheimer's Murfreesboro Walk.
This year’s walk will be held Saturday, Sept. 22 at Embassy Suites on Medical Center Boulevard. Registration starts at 7:15 a.m. and the national anthem kicks off the walk at 7:55 a.m.
The walk will help the more than 1,200 people a day, who are given the fatal diagnosis that they have fallen prey to this beast. That is one person every 68 seconds.
In America, one out of eight people over the age of 65 and one out of two over the age of 85 have the disease.
Once diagnosed, the families and loved ones around the victim pull together, fall apart and often crumble under the overwhelming pressure of care taking demands.
It is a progressive illness that can bring a family to a halt, require 24 hour care and isolate the victim from everyone they know.
Once a person is diagnosed with the disease they quickly lose their rights to make daily life decisions about where they live, who has control over their bank accounts what they can eat or drink and their ability to do anything on their own.
It is normally not a quick death but one that is slow and last for years after draining the person’s finances and taking a heavy emotional toll on the family and friends around them.
Early on the person with this disease will not be able to say what type of care they want, will not be able to care for themselves in any way and if living in a health care facility will not be able to report abuse and neglect, nor will they even remember if it happens, who did it or how bad it was.
The disease is only ranked as the sixth leading cause of death.
In many cases, since this illness slowly dismantles the body’s abilities, people often officially die of another cause. The severity of this situation is not taken seriously enough.
Imagine someone telling you that you had a fatal disease with no cure and that your health would be a slow decline that could stretch out for years.
This epidemic death sentence has attacked my mom.
The people she has known and loved her entire life are now strangers.
All the images of places, events and people that she loved have been stolen, erased.
This predator of the mind, is the disease of Alzheimer’s. The severity of this situation is often not taken seriously enough.
Let me repeat the reality of the disease known as Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s will change the future of America.
It will affect our ability to lead, to create and manage money, to be charitable at home and to the rest of the world.
Many of our great leaders will be taken from us early in their lives and many will never reach their full potential.
Nationally, individually, we must focus.
We must bring this silent destroyer out into the light and attack it, talk about it, study it and help to raise awareness.
This is our future we are talking about. It is our grandparents, our parents that we are worried about now. In a short period of time it will be our brothers, sisters, loved ones and even ourselves who are in jeopardy.
As one person, we cannot fight this monster.
Together, as individuals working for one common cause, we are strong, we are a formidable foe and we can beat this beast.
It starts with a step and a commitment to work together to raise awareness and funds, and to continue to search for a cure.
Each year I take part in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Telling my friends and acquaintances about the disease is what I can do to help.
Please help in the fight and show your support.
I would love for you go join my team and help me fight to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. We are called The Memory Joggers and walk to honor my mom.
If you would like to donate go to Alz.org and find the team for Rutherford County that you wish to donate to, or you can donate to my mom's team at thememoryjoggers.com.