ALZ Stars Runner Spotlight: Lindsay Dolce

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is not just about ONE story – it’s thousands of stories. Read Lindsay Dolce’s ALZ Stars marathon runner spotlight below!

Where are you from?
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Is this your first marathon?
I ran my first marathon in Chicago in 2011. This will be my 4th full marathon!

What do you do when you’re not training for a marathon?
I work for a nonprofit that places AmeriCorps members in classrooms to support literacy and math instruction for kids who are struggling to become proficient.

Why are you running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association ALZ Stars team?
My Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2015 and it has impacted my entire family. He is the proverbial strong Dad and all of us have had to wrestle with our sadness, anger and other emotions related to this nondiscriminatory condition. Since then I have met so many people who have this shared experience and the opportunity to use my love of running to fuel fundraising for research that helps end Alzheimers and dementia-related diseases just makes sense.

Is there a “go to” song that gets you moving?
Fireball by Pitbull is such a fun song!

Do you have any training tips you can share?
My training tip would be to put in the miles before the race. It starts to get old running so many miles but on race day all those miles pay huge dividends!

What’s your pre-race meal or snack?
I am a toast with natural peanut butter gal!

For information on how you can get involved with ALZ Stars or to make a donation to the team, click here!

“So Many Memories”

By: Mike Guglielmo

My wife’s journey started quietly and without warning. Her journey was going to take us down many different twists and turns filled with many different emotions. She was a remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. She was an avid reader, loved to visit with family and friends, and she loved to cook and play with her grandkids. If I had a question or didn’t know how to spell a word, I would call her to make sure I had it right. She was my Google before there was Google.  If someone needed help she would be the first one to volunteer and the last one to leave. She always worried about everyone else, and what they needed. She wanted to make a difference. 

She started to have brain fog, as she called it, which she attributed to something in her diet. At work, she would be helping a customer and she would forget what she was doing for a minute, and then she would remember it again She was a Reiki Master-Teacher and she started to have trouble putting her study books together. She would always get it done, but it took her a lot of extra time. She had trouble with balancing her checkbook. For a number of years, she dealt with these changes silently…not sharing her struggles with anyone. As things became more difficult, she went to doctors, therapists, physiatrists, and nutritionists leaving no stone unturned. However, she continued to have issues, and they couldn’t figure out what the cause was.   

Then in  November 2011 on the way to work, she was having difficulty following the road and drove into on-coming traffic. Luckily, she did not get into an accident. When she got to work, her boss called a doctor and they advised her to go to the nearest emergency room.  Her boss called me and I met them both at the hospital. They thought that maybe she had a stroke. They did a CT scan and everything was negative. She was sent home and they advised her to see her primary care doctor, a  psychiatrist and a neurologist. She never drove again.  

We continued to meet with doctors and they would tell her that she was depressed. She would argue that she definitely was not depressed. We finally went to visit the Rush Memory Clinic. After reviewing her medical history, more testing, and CT scans – we had a consultation with a doctor. That is when we learned that my wife had posterior cortical atrophy, a rare variant of Alzheimer’s disease that is typically early onset.  My wife said, “Thank You! Finally, somebody told me what I have.” I sat next to her devastated by the news.

She was happy to know what was wrong.  She was going to be positive and handle it like everything else she did: with a positive attitude. She had faith in God and she knew that everything would be in his hands. She would pray to God every day, accepting whatever was in front of her.  She never complained. I was the one complaining… why her, why couldn’t it be me. She always took excellent care of herself, it didn’t make sense.

My son Chris, Deb, me and my daughter Alison.

At the time, her parents lived with us. They would stay with Deb while I was working, and if they went out they would take her with them.  She was with someone all the time, except when she would walk her dog, Angel. I found out from the neighbors that she would sometimes get lost and they would bring her home. She couldn’t do much for herself, so I had decided to quit working in January of 2015. I look back at that time, and I wish I had done it sooner. Being able to help her through her journey was the most rewarding time of my life. I think she really enjoyed having me there all the time.  

She had issues getting dressed and with general overall hygiene. As time went on, she couldn’t read or write. One of the saddest things she told me was that she wasn’t able to play with her grandkids. Sometimes she would think I was her Dad. She was still eating and sleeping well. When she went to bed, she would sleep for 9 to 10 hours. However, one night she went to bed with her dog as usual and a couple of hours later her dog came downstairs.  I knew something was wrong, so I went up and found her at the top of the stairs. She was not sure what to do, I put her back to bed and she went to sleep for the night. That’s was when I realized, we had to move and it worked out that I found a place in the same building as my daughter. 

Her verbal communication became less and less; she couldn’t speak in complete sentences. Our daughter got married in 2015 and the night before the service we had dinner and everybody told a story about the newlyweds. Deb wanted to say something and I was not sure she could do it; however, to my amazement, she spoke beautifully about both of them. I, on the other hand, could not speak at all and just cried.

Early on, I decided Deb would stay home as long as I was able to care for her.  We would stay busy with yoga and meditation four days a week. She would get a massage once a week, and sometimes she would say that she didn’t want to go. But I would take her anyway and then she would really enjoy it. If she didn’t, I would take her back home.  We would go to the City once a week to have lunch with Alison and Jake and go to Cathy and Mario’s once a week for lunch. She really enjoyed getting out. She loved to listen to music and sing. Even after she couldn’t communicate anymore she could still sing songs, especially with my sister.  As her journey continued, crowds and noise would upset her. Usually, if she was upset, I would lay down with her and hold her in my arms and she would normally calm down.

She continued to go to the doctors yearly for her physical and periodically to the memory clinic. Her overall health was very good. The last visit to the Memory Clinic she cried because she couldn’t answer any questions. She was on a slow, continuous decline. She had a great personality, funny with a quick wit, and over time this continued to change. However, at times we would be at someone’s house having a conversation and her quick wit would come out to our surprise, making us aware that she still was with us.

She had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. However they found nothing had changed, so they sent her home. After the seizure, she started to decline more rapidly; sometimes she couldn’t walk. She was still sleeping well at night and spent most of the day in her chair listening to music. 

Her spirit never changed. Her quick wit would show up every now and then, and it would make all of us smile. As she continued to decline,  I focused on trying to make her comfortable. Finally, we had to stop leaving the house. 

It’s really hard to say goodbye. She died at home with her family by her side.  I will end with  one of the last love notes she wrote to me:  “So many memories, and so many years ahead of us still!”

I know what she wants me to do now is to help others.  I will do whatever I can to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

The Meaning of Mother’s Day

By: Abby Walker

Patsy Walker. She was a wife, mother, grandmother and so much more. She taught me so much throughout my life.

I know her mainly through old home videos now, but I can still hear her laugh and say my name. She was the most curious and spunky lady I knew. She and Grandpa lived in Fort Myers, Florida and it was always a treat to go down and visit them. I remember getting up at five in the morning to do crossword puzzles with her, and then we’d jump in the pool for a morning swim. I would also sit in the basket on the back of her bike and go for rides with her. These are all great memories we made together, but then things began to change. They were small changes at first, like losing her keys or wandering down to her daughter’s house in the middle of the night. Eventually, my Dad (her son) made the conscious decision to place her in an assisted living facility here in Illinois. Assisted living turned out to be the wrong place for her, so we moved Grandma to a nursing home about 25 minutes from our house. She slowly began to forget who I was. She thought my mom was her daughter. Worst of all, she couldn’t remember who my dad was – the man who had done so much for her. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and I didn’t really know much about Alzheimer’s disease.

We visited her all the time, especially during the holidays. The nursing home would host special family events on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. The staff there were truly amazing. Around the age of seventeen, I began to develop a major interest in Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, my Grandpa (my mom’s dad) also had dementia.  Two people I loved dearly were living with this disease. I attended my first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in September of 2017 and one month later, the Monday before Thanksgiving, my Grandpa passed away.

It was only five months and three weeks later, and I still remember where I was. It was Mother’s Day 2018 and I was sitting in my room. I remember hearing my Mom ask my Dad who was on the phone, and he replied with “the nursing home.” And at that moment, we all knew she was gone. From that day forward, I wanted to devote my time and energy to the Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer. I even presented a speech about the Alzheimer’s Association at a National Pageant this past June and won.

Grandma, thank you. Thank you for helping me to become the person I am today. Thank you for always trying new hairstyles on me and for painting my nails. Thank you for taking me bike riding and for showing me the joys of cloud watching. Thank you for catching me when I fell. Thank you for letting me do everything with you. Thank you for cuddling me on those cold Florida nights. Thank you for giving me my Dad. Thank you for your Bible. And most of all, thank you for holding my hand until the very end.

See you on the other side of the rainbow. I love you.

{In Rememberance of Patsy Walker. July 20, 1933 – May 13, 2018}