Please join us in celebrating life, and working towards a world where people with dementia and their families receive improved diagnosis experiences and rates, and better care which includes rehabilitation. Of course we all want a cure or a disease modifying drug for even one type or cause of dementia, but the more than 50 million people currently living with dementia and their families also deserve the better care.
Special thanks to Cheryl Day for sharing her story with us today.
Hello My Name is Cheryl Day.
Working cross culturally in Africa has many challenges and joys. Since 2009 I had been volunteering for SIM (Serving in Mission) in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe as a Horticulturalist (training farmers in conservation agriculture & food security) and a Pastor. I can tell you lots of stories of my adventures.
The joys were many, like opportunity to build new relationships, friendships, making a difference in peoples lives and the impact they had on my own life. Challenges like learning new languages and cultural cues, almost ending up in jail in Ethiopia, living standards and resource availability way different to Australia, and having two very serious back injuries while there. I thought this was about as challenging as my life could be.
While in Zimbabwe, October 2016, I had some unusual health symptoms that I couldn’t make out. In January 2017 I had the regular tests in South Africa for previous health issues, but the tests showed all was fine, but I knew that something was wrong. At the same time my issues started my sister was diagnosed with AML Leukemia back home. I eventually made a trip home in March 2017 to spend time with her and family.
While home I took advantage of better medical facilities to begin investigating my own health issues. At first, they thought my symptoms matched Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There was also a thought that there may be two major conditions happening at once. However, with no certain diagnosis I was given a clearance to return to Zimbabwe and continue the vital work there.
To cut a long story short after returning back to Australia the end of 2017 I finally got an official full diagnosis in May 2018 as test results showed a further decline from 12 months pervious.
Absolutely shattered at the prognosis of a growing list of health conditions and told to get all my affairs in order.
At 51 years old I was diagnosed with a rare condition – the semantic variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia. Plus issues from a Chiari Malformation of the brain, osteoporosis, recovering from a fall in Zimbabwe September 2017 where I had shattered 3 vertebrae in my back (a miracle I didn’t come home in a wheel Chair), and issues from the previous 2013 back injury.
Devastated knowing that this would be the final straw to end a goal of volunteering in Africa long term. (by the way I did get back to Zimbabwe to say goodbye in Sept/Oct 2018). I cried more than I had ever before, felt totally defeated, this was the end of my missionary adventures, the ability to enjoy life and continue to contribute into the lives of others.
One day I was listening to the radio and they were interviewing a lady named Kate Swaffer and her journey with dementia. Of course, my ears pricked up given my current circumstances and I listened intently to the interview.
I grabbed my computer and googled Dementia Alliance International. Becoming involved with DAI and connecting with Kate was the breakthrough I had been praying for and haven’t looked back since.
From the beginning of 2019 the support groups, the informative webinars, the friendships I’m making, the realisation of knowing I’m not alone in this, the opportunity to volunteer and help in advocacy for dementia are lifesaving.
A new focus, new life and new possibilities.
I am learning what I have read in the Bible so many times about living one day at a time and not worrying about tomorrow. I am still capable of many things, have a lot to offer and my passion of empowering people continues, just with a different perspective.
Cheryl Day © 2019