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Why I’m trekking five active volcanoes for Alzheimer’s Research UK

Jess Edwards

There’s just a few days to go until we set off for Guatemala, and I’m already panicking that I might forget something. I’ve listed what to pack, packed, repacked and made lists for my lists before I do my final pack. It’s safe to say I am starting to get a little bit nervous.

I was nervous when I signed up, but now I’m getting that fluttering feeling in the pit of my stomach when I remember that it’s really happening – I still can’t believe we’re really going to Guatemala, and we’re really going to trek volcanoes!

While I might be nervous, there’s also the excitement. I was on the train this morning when it hit me how amazing it is that I am taking part in Alzheimer’s Research UK’s first overseas trek and will get to do something to help fund dementia research. It means so much to me to be able to take part in this.

I decided to sign up after seeing an Instagram post about the trip over a year ago. I have never done anything like this before, or even been to this part of the world, so after a couple of days, I signed up, and didn’t give it much more thought. However, as the months passed, I started to realise how gruelling it was going to be. But then I also started to focus more on who I was doing it for.

My nan lives with dementia. Her condition could be worse, but it could also be so much better. She is a complete doll, and when you see her you would honestly just assume that she’s fine. The problem is, she just isn’t my nan anymore – she’s my nan who has Alzheimer’s disease. That label alone has changed everything.

It’s not easy seeing her condition deteriorate. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had to choke back tears when she forgets who I am, or when I’ve been left in total despair as I have to make sure she eats and takes her medication.

I know from my nan’s experience that not all people understand dementia or know how to cope when someone they love has it. Sadly, research is underfunded when compared with other diseases, and there are no treatments that can slow or prevent the condition from progressing.

I couldn’t even begin to imagine being in my mum’s shoes. I can barely cope with it all now, I honestly don’t know how I would be if it were my own mother in that situation.

As well as my nan’s experience, I have witnessed the heartbreak of dementia in other areas. My best friend was distraught when her grandad, who was like a father to her, died with vascular dementia last year. When he passed away, she told me that she wouldn’t want anyone to go through what she did.

It’s because of stories like these – my nan’s, and my friend’s grandad – that this trek means so much to me. I can’t explain how happy it would make me if the money I raised could help to one day find a new treatment for dementia.

Yes, it’s going to be tough. My knees are going to hurt, I’m almost certainly going to cry (especially when I realise I’ve forgotten something from my list!), but I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. It’s all going to be worth it when I’m trekking those volcanoes in Guatemala and thinking about a brighter future for other people with dementia.

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