Thank you for accessing my fund-raising page, in support of the Alzheimer's Society.
On 30 April, I will be cycling the hills of the 100km Tour de Yorkshire - to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society and in memory of my Dad, who died last September after an 8-year battle with the disease. My Dad loved the hills and, while he would have preferred to have tackled the route on foot, it seemed like a very fitting way to remember him.
My Dad was a kind, generous and sociable man, for whom retirement should have been about travels with my mum, walks in the hills, regaling his volumes of stories and playing with his squad of grandchildren. Alzheimer's robbed him of all that. It systematically stripped him of his physical and mental faculties. It deprived his loved ones of his company and diluted their memories, over the course of the long illness, of the husband/dad/grandad they once had. It is scarcely conceivable to imagine life without the collection of experiences, memories and connections that define who we are. But that is what Alzheimer's is and does. Or, at least, that is what strikes me the most. And I know that several of you will have your own first-hand experiences and views of what is a truly terrible disease.
The various forms of dementia (of which Alzheimer's is the most common) are now the leading cause of death in this country. There are estimated to be around 850,000 dementia sufferers in the UK, and 36 million globally - and those numbers are projected to escalate rapidly over the next 20 years. While investment, better treatments and prevention programmes have led to the steady dropping in the incidence and mortality rates for most major diseases, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are the stand-out exception.
It is well known and understood that Alzheimer's is caused by progressive brain cell death over a period of time; that with the shrinking of the brain tissue comes progressively fewer nerve cells and connections, in turn leading to losses in memory, orientation, communication, mobility and ultimately any level of cognition. But the "causes of these causes" remain elusive. For decades, Alzheimer's research has focussed on the deposit of beta amyloid protein deposits on the brain, in the belief that a successful treatment of such deposits will prevent or reverse the brain cell death and thereby the clinical expression of dementia. However, in all clinical trials to date (including the final phase trial last year of a much heralded potential breakthrough drug), the successful targeting of these amyloid deposits has failed to improve cognitive outcomes to any material extent. I don't mean to set out the above by way of some kind of noddy tutorial on Alzheimer's - but simply to illustrate the sheer scale of the challenge we face to fully understand, let alone effectively tackle, it.
With a massive improvement in funding, research and understanding, we can (and must) hope that Alzheimer's can be increasingly seen not as a hopeless and an inevitable part of ageing, or an unavoidable consequence of increased life expectancy, but a disease that can be fought like any other and ultimately overcome. The work of the Alzheimer's Society is key to achieving that.
So, thank you very much in advance for whatever support you are able to give. If you need any further motivation to dip into your pocket, and particularly for those of you that know me best, think not only of the challenge of my tackling the distance and steep climbs (link below), but of my passing the 50+ Yorkshire ale houses en route ... I certainly am!
The Alzheimer's Society: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/
The Tour de Yorkshire: http://letour.yorkshire.com/maserati-tour-de-yorkshire-ride
All the best
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