First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON -- Jackie Harding speaks about her mother in past tense.
Her mother, Ruth Oxendine, isn't dead, but is a shell of the woman who raised Harding, having been debilitated by Alzheimer's disease.
“She had such quiet strength, but she could be tough when she needed to be,” Harding said. “I think that is what I miss most about her, and why something needs to be done about this horrible disease.”
Harding will be among hundreds of people supporting Saturday's Alzheimer's Memory Walk, which begins at Lumberton High School at 10 a.m. and continues until noon. The Memory Walk is the Alzheimer’s Association’s national signature event to help those battling the disease.
Registration will start at 9 a.m. at the high school track inside Brooks Stadium. In case of heavy rain, participants will meet at Biggs Park Mall.
Participants walk as individuals or as part of a team. Walkers ask friends, family, business associates and others to sponsor them by making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. Volunteers will register walkers, man checkpoints and offer refreshments.
The day will also include entertainment by the Rev. Jim Belt, the 7-Mile Band and the Joyful Notes. There will also be face-painting, a Tupperware booth, a raffle for a hand-made Afghan, a bake sale and other activities.
The goal of the local 2003 Memory Walk is to raise $10,000 to pay for research, education and support groups. The event raised $4,000 last year. Lumberton began hosting the event in 1994.
“One of the goals of the walks when we began was to increase awareness about the disease, and we've been able to do that,” said Mary Scott, a nurse at Woodhaven Nursing Home in Lumberton who is co-chairman of the event with Tony Jenkins.
Living with Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. The disease was first described in 1906 by German doctor Alois Alzheimer. About 4.6 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, and studies estimate there will be 7.7 million affected by the disease by 2030.
Donna Valenti of Lumberton knows the effects of the disease. Her mother, Edna Bland, was diagnosed with the disease in 1992. Bland is a resident at the Woodhaven Alzheimer's Care Center in Lumberton.
“The initial signs were the forgetfulness,” Valenti said. “She would confuse simple tasks. For example, her clothes might not match or she would forget stuff at the store. At first she tried to make excuses like she hadn't slept well. She knew it was not normal behavior for her.”
Valenti likens the disease to a roulette wheel.
“The disease affects the brain in stages,” she said. “A friend of mine compared it with roulette. Whatever part of the brain the wheel lands on, that is what is affected. For my mother, it was language development. Others may be able to talk, but can't remember things.”
Harding said her 83-year-old mother, who lives at Wesley Pines, was diagnosed seven years ago.
“It's almost like we've lost our mother,” she said. “We're no longer able to do those mother-daughter things, like long talks or shopping excursions. She's still here, but in a sense she is gone, too.
“I hope there is eventually a treatment or cure for this horrid disease, because it really does rob you of that family member.”