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Monticello man honors hero by fundraising, running

Written by Scott Burnsmier

I must admit writing this was one of the most difficult and painful experiences I have had since mom passed away in April of 2018 from Lewy Body Dementia. As I sit here and reflect on the disease and the experiences it gave to our family over the last ten years of her life, it reminded me that Alzheimer’s is indiscriminate to who you are and the background you bring. All I could think about was my Mother, Dorothy Key — my hero, a strong-willed person who raised three kids on her own, is in for the fight of her life. I immediately started finding out what I could when we started the journey in 2008. Alzheimer’s: what is it? What will happen to our mother? We took the dreaded journey of getting answers from the Neurologist. He went through tons of tests and explained what was ahead.

I immediately thought, “But she is only 62 and why her?” I then went to God and prayed as I said, “I trust you and the plan you have for her.” As the disease progressed, the first few years were somewhat normal. However, year four was met with challenges as mom found a painful lump in her breast and we had her checked. Sure enough, she had stage one breast cancer. We immediately scheduled not only our Neurology appointments, but we also had Oncology and radiation treatments as well. During this difficult time with mom, we were dealt the devastating news that my father-in-law Dean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His journey would last for the next six years until he passed in 2018, just 63 days after mom.

I found myself at a crossroads in life as my wife Sandy and I navigated two sick parents. There were stressful moments and quite a few nursing home moves for both. I kept this phrase in my mind as we went on the Alzheimer’s journey: “We could choose to get better or bitter about our circumstances.” I was very grateful to have an incredible support system of my sisters Robin and Barb.

Over the next few years, we joined Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Greater Champaign/Urbana teams coordinated by my other father-in-law. I even celebrated my 50th birthday by running 50 miles in forty-eight hours. Alzheimer’s may have taken my mother, but it hasn’t taken my will and desire to ensure no other family faces the same journey I did. Join Walk and make a difference.

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