Meet: Leanna Bidwell @elephunlife
"My dad started showing signs of Alzheimer’s when I was in high school. Let me tell you, there’s no worse combination in the world than a teenager and dementia patient under the same roof. I suppose all terminal illnesses are vicious in their own way, but Alzheimer’s really enjoys itself. It relishes in its slow and meticulous nature. It doesn’t want you to miss out on anything. Especially losing your loved one twice.
Once when you watch everything about them slowly disappear over the course of a decade or so and then a second time when you have to actually bury them. You’d think watching your parent take that long to die would somehow prepare you for it when it actually happens. It doesn’t. Near the end, he had lost the ability and even the knowledge of how to feed himself. When we got his death certificate, the first thing listed was “Failure to Thrive”. Alzheimer’s was listed as the contributing cause to this. It was the reason he stopped eating and speaking. Eventually it took away his ability to swallow. Death follows soon after this and you basically just have to wait for their body to shut down. That was all the “Failure to Thrive” referred to, but I don’t think three words have ever made me so angry. That man never failed to thrive a day in his life. It was like the disease having one last laugh.
For years after he died, I didn’t want anything to do with Alzheimer’s. I didn’t want to talk about it or be around it. People occasionally suggested or asked if I wanted to get involved with fundraising or awareness, but I just wanted to get as far away from it as possible. That was until 2015. I saw a commercial for the Columbus Walk to End Alzheimer’s and something just clicked. I knew I had to do it. I formed a team, now known as Bidwell’s Brigade (a shout out to my dad’s Marine Corps service in WWII).
Our goal as a team is to just to have fun while spreading awareness and fundraising. Our walk this year is on September 24. If anyone is interested in joining us, you can sign up at http://act.alz.org/goto/BidwellsBrigade or contact us at bidwellsbrigade @gmail.com.
You can also check us out on Instagram and FB."