RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News is Taking the Lead on the “Walk to end Alzheimer’s” in November. The 8 News team will be walking with hundreds of other people to help find a cure for the disease.
Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are currently living with it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The disease touches almost everyone. In fact, one in two persons in the U.S. knows someone with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
8News reporter Sydney Cameron was first introduced to the disease when she was about 10 years-old. Her maternal grandmother, Valadia Williams, suffered from it.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, eventually becoming severe enough to interfere with daily activities. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Sydney’s grandmother was a witty, mother of two, who loved to play with her grandkids. Sydney’s mom, Denise Cameron, remembers how her mom used to play with Sydney and her siblings, “You guys liked to sleep on the floor and at the time your granny had to be in her 70s and she would actually get down on the floor and sleep with you guys.”
Every year, Williams, who lived in Chicago, would visit Sydney and the rest of the family in Texas where they lived. She traveled there for Christmas, birthday celebrations, or just a weekend get-away. But over the years those visits became less frequent and eventually stopped.
“You could see a change in her behavioral pattern, but you just thought she was getting old, a little cranky,” Cameron said. But then an incident happened while Williams was driving and the family realized something was wrong. In her 80s, Sydney’s grandmother, was showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“I explained to you guys that, you know, Granny was ill and her memory was leaving her and she might not remember her,” Cameron told her daughter over a Skype conversation.
“At such a young age, I don’t think my siblings and I really understood what Alzheimer’s meant,” Sydney said. “We just knew that Granny didn’t remember anything anymore. We would still talk to her though, carrying on a conversation, even though she couldn’t respond.”
The symptoms only worsened, until Williams could not walk, talk, or swallow. “Her eyes would follow you, she could hear you, she could move her hands, but you know… It was leaving her,” Cameron said.
Several difficult years followed. “I remember our family would drive to Chicago every summer to visit Granny after she got sick,” Sydney remembered. “We would spend hours just sitting in the living room with her, watching TV. Mom would give her pedicures all the time.”
“I accepted the facts of what would happen. I didn’t like it, but it was something, that, that was part of life,” Sydney’s mom recalled.
Sydney’s grandmother passed away in December 2007 when she was 93 years-old. Now, they carry her close to their hearts.
“On my wedding day, I wore a string of pearls Granny gave me when I was a child. Granny used to wear the necklace all the time when I was younger. Mom said I used to play with them.”
Cameron wears a smiley-face necklace her mom gave her more than 30 years ago. “It’s lost an eye, but I still wear it.”
This is why Sydney walks to end Alzheimer’s Disease. “I walk to give a voice to those without. I walk to find a cure for the other Grannies in the world. I walk to give hope.”
8News invites you come out and “Walk to end Alzheimer’s” with us on November 7 at Innsbrook.