About

Joanne on Cacapon dockAround 4 million Americans had Alzheimer’s in 1998, and one of them was my grandmother. Approximately 5.4 million Americans have it today, and one of them WAS my mother. An estimated 11 million will have it by 2040, and one of them could be you . . . or me.

Not if I can help it. 

I’m Joanne, and I’m Racing Alzheimer’s.  Racing Alzheimer’s is about doing everything I can to stay out in front of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s about believing that prevention is possible and worth striving for. It’s about being open and willing to try just about anything  — including exercise, eating right, juicing, meditation and certainly writing this blog must qualify for brain Olympics!

I haven’t always been healthy, and didn’t pay much attention to my health for most of my life — I had an awful diet, didn’t exercise, and I let stress run my life rather than the other way around.  For many years, I was kind of sick and tired in that average American way that goes mostly unnoticed until one day I realized I couldn’t get up from the floor without grabbing on to something.  I was overweight and out of shape.

So what.  I still didn’t care.

It was only after seeing my mom with Alzheimer’s disease, and realizing that I could be next, that I finally began to care.  I found out Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only disease in the top ten that cannot be cured or slowed.  Scary stuff.  And end stage Alzheimer’s?  You become infant-like, need total care, and don’t know your own name.  Terrifying.  So I began reading everything I could get my hands on about Alzheimer’s prevention, and I learned that by eating right, exercising, and reducing stress I could save my own life.  Sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

That’s when I cared.

You know, it’s been such an interesting shift to go from the idea that I should eat healthy to lose weight, and I should exercise to fit into my jeans, and instead embrace the idea that I will eat healthy and exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s, live longer, and ultimately live my best life.  I wrote a little bit about it HERE.

Racing Alzheimer’s is also about my mom who was diagnosed at 68 and just passed away at 75 on July 6th, 2013.  I knew she would die from this disease, but I didn’t truly understand what that meant until she was gone.  I’ve heard a “ground-shifting sadness” comes with losing a mother, and I believe this as I try to find my footing on this earth without her.   I was her long-distance caregiver, which was admittedly easier than being in the trenches, but still brought it’s own set of challenges —  including a fair amount of guilt and a simmering sense of helplessness.  These feelings along with my endless worrying are gone now, which feels like a shimmery silver lining for me as I move forward.

I’ve reached middle-age, and there are plenty of things I want to talk about — so who knows where this will go.  I’ve already written a fair amount about my “empty nest,”  how I’m NOT a runner, and how I found love at Costco.  I hope to lighten up as well.  I mean, I’d like to think I’m about finished “Adjusting Under My Rock.”

I’m feeling better now.  Thank you for listening.

They say when you write a blog you should focus on one thing.  It seems like I’m all over the place, but I’m really writing about — GROWTH.  We can call it learning, evolving, or even investigating  — but growth is my focus.  Whether I write about the benefits of coconut oil, the importance of exercise and meditation, or letting go of my mom — physical, spiritual, and emotional growth will be between the lines.

I see “Racing Alzheimer’s” as a metaphor for living my best life.  Living our best lives.

Do you have a loved one with dementia disappearing before your eyes?  Are you “middle-aged” and unsure what’s next for you now that your children have moved on?  Maybe you’re trying to be healthy and you’re “Racing Alzheimer’s” too?  Or maybe like me, you’re just trying to hang on and live your best life even though you’re not quite sure what that means or how to do it.  It’s pretty overwhelming, I know.  I mean, how do you make kale taste good anyway?

I’m positive there are millions of us right smack in that sandwiched place of having children who need us less and parents who need us more — and many of us have loved ones with dementia.  But we’re putting our best (laced up) foot forward while figuring out how to nourish our bodies and our souls.  We’re re-defining our roles, while getting reacquainted with ourselves.   We’re letting go and stepping into the fullness of our lives.

I know this — I am not afraid of Alzheimer’s disease.  I’m afraid of a life half-lived, should Alzheimer’s come knocking.

I’m Racing Alzheimer’s with prevention and intention.

Come along . . .  join me.  We’ve got this.

    ~  Joanne

2012  —  I peed my pants a little on the home stretch of this 10K.

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I live in Virginia with my husband, a cat & dog, and two young-adult children who visit on occasion.  Interests include running, yoga, meditation, gardening, helping where I can, and spending time with friends and family.

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Comments

  1. Joanne, I don’t know you, but can tell you’re an awesome person! I love your admission above (“I peed my pants a little in the home stretch….) – gotta love middle age, right?

    I left a comment on your Apr 10 post and now that I’ve found you, will continue to follow along. I lost my mom Dec 15 after too many years with this horrible disease. Ironically, she was also 68 when diagnosed. She turned 76 two months and 3 days before she went to Heaven…

    It’s such a difficult/sad/painful thing to deal with, watching them fade away before your eyes…. hang in there, and know you aren’t alone.

    Blessings,
    Ann

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Hi Ann,

      I rewrote this page not too long ago and (tediously) figured out how to add this comment section. I’ve been meaning to “announce” my new About page and hopefully get some comments here, but haven’t gotten around to it — so THANK YOU! You are the first!
      Yes, we can assume if our mother’s have/had Alzheimer’s, (and I’m peeing my pants) then we must be middle-aged. I just turned 50 which I’m practicing saying out loud.
      It looks like our mothers are following the same time-line — my mom will be 76 in Sept. if she makes it that far, which is much too young. But then people are getting this disease at 50, 40, and I’ve heard 30 which is why I believe it has a lot to do with our lifestyle for one thing, and who knows what else.

      Like you said, it is difficult/sad/painful thing to deal with, and it truly is the long good-bye which is such a perfect name for it. I distinctly remember the first thing I said good-bye to was mom helping me make meals when we were at the lake for a week, that was 2005. That’s when I knew for sure, and there have been a thousand good-byes since then.

      Be well Ann, and blessing to you too.

      Joanne

  2. José Manuel says:

    I love American, British and Australian Social Workers… We must learn from you. Thank you very much.

    • Joanne Leonardis says:

      Aaaah . . . I used to be a social worker, but not anymore . . . although now that I think about it, I guess I would consider myself a “social worker” in the broadest sense — feeding and rescuing stray animals, advising friends and family when prompted, giving money to people who hold up signs, and always trying to contribute to the greater good of this world. Yes, I am a Social Worker! Thank you for visiting Jose’. : )

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