Family's history of Alzheimer's inspires Belfast woman to run half marathon for dementia research
A BELFAST woman who has lost eight members of her extended family, all aged in their 50s, to a rare inherited form of early onset-dementia is to help with a campaign for Alzheimer's research.
Kerry Bryson from Dundonald said she hopes by raising awareness of the condition, "future generations don’t have to go through what my family have been through".
Several members of the 37-year-old's family has been affected by the rare familial Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by a faulty gene, and accounts for fewer than one per cent of all cases of the disease.
Someone who has a parent affected by familial Alzheimer’s has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the gene.
One of Ms Bryson's uncles passed away from the condition, aged 57, while her grandfather died aged 54 and six of his eight siblings all died in their 50s.
Another uncle is in a dementia care unit aged 54.
While Ms Bryson knows she will is unlikely to have the disease as her mother Selina Neill did not inherit the faulty gene, she said "Alzheimer’s has always been a part of our family".
"My grandad died when I was five and now it’s affecting my mum’s generation," she said.
"One of my uncles has died while another is in the latter stages of the disease.
"Seeing their decline with the disease was very sad to watch. It’s as if their brains closed down, they forgot how to do things.
"It’s like they forgot how to live.
"Although it’s a relief that my mum doesn’t have the gene, it has still been really tough for her. She had to nurse her dad and then her two brothers.
"As she chose not to find out if she had the gene, we had to wait to see if she developed symptoms in her late 40s.
"It was a very worrying time having that hanging over your head. Everyone was on alert and it would be very suffocating for her.
"If she did something like putting an item in the wrong cupboard in the kitchen, you’d worry that she had it."
Ms Bryson's mother, aunt and two uncles were involved in pioneering research at University College London, which helped identify the faulty gene.
Now Ms Bryson will help raise funds for further research when she takes part in the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon on March 25 for Alzheimer's Research UK.
"I’m very proud that my mum played a role in important research and was able do something positive out of something so horrible," she said.
"It’s vital to support dementia research so future generations don’t have to go through what my family have been through."
Kenneth Foreman from the charity said: "Kerry’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.
"The vital funds raised by her and the hundreds of runners taking on the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia."
For further information, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kerrybryson