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Courtney Windisch: How Alzheimer’s Touched My Life

Back in 2003, my grandpa, Ralph, had to have a procedure to remove a tumor from his brain. Shortly after that, he started to forget things such as his address, where he was going, and he would start repeating the same stories. Initially, they thought this was a result of the procedure, but it was quickly diagnosed as the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. This news shook up our family. When talking more to my family about it, my dad and his brothers spoke about how their grandma, Ralph’s mother, had the same symptoms of the disease. At that time, Alzheimer’s was not as commonly diagnosed, so she was diagnosed with being senile. After a few years, my family chose to move my grandpa into a home not too far from my grandma. Since I was so young when he was diagnosed, a lot of my memories were in that home visiting him. Even at the age of ten, knowing that this is a genetic disease, I knew I wanted to work towards a cure for my family and my future.

Growing up, I heard all of the stories about how great my grandpa was. He was well known on the railroad, and even until this day, when I meet someone who works for the railroad, I still get, “Are you related to Ralph Windisch?!” Even though I had always heard about how much of a big shot he was, he was still always just the person who would sneak me all his cucumbers from his salad plate at dinners because he knew they were my favorite. Before he was ever grandpa, he was just a cool kid from St. Paul, Minnesota, who loved his motorcycle club and fell in love with my grandma shortly after she left the convent. They went on to be married for the rest of their lives and have five boys.

I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago, but I now live in Los Angeles. During the last Los Angeles Marathon, I went down my street to watch and cheer on the runners. At that moment, I told myself that I would eventually work up the courage to run one myself. During the pandemic, I got into running as a form of therapy and also a reason to get out of the house. I then decided that it was finally time to run that marathon, and I wanted to do it back home. I knew that I wanted to run through a charity team, and there was no question that ALZ Stars was the choice for me. Along with wanting to run for my grandpa’s legacy and the future of my family, I recently had genetic testing done. I found out that I have multiple genetic markers for Alzheimer’s. I am only 28 years old, so I am hopeful that with all of the amazing work and with the research I have access to, things will be better in the future.

This disease does not just affect those who have it, but all of their loved ones as well. It is a terrible disease that slowly changes and takes away the people you love most. I encourage everyone to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and spread awareness so we can move forward in finding a cure.

Donate to Courtney’s ALZ Stars fundraising page HERE and help her make a difference. To learn more about ALZ Stars and join the team, click HERE.



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Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter

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