This time last year, I put pen to paper about my Grandma's battle with Alzheimer's Disease. All the things I wanted to say to her but, because of her Alzheimer's, never could. The goodbye that I never had the chance to say and never would.
It was not easy, as someone who does not wear her heart publicly on her sleeve, to put such feelings on paper. But I did so in the hope of raising awareness of this terrible disease that tore a hole in the centre of my family and to encourage people to support the causes that are working hard to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.
A couple of months ago, I once again found myself struggling to put pen to paper to write about my Grandma. This was a different struggle. This time, I was trying to sum up years and years of happy childhood memories in one short eulogy.
In June, after years of fighting, stubbornness and untold strength, my Grandma lost her battle with Alzheimer's, I lost my rock, and the world lost one of the kindest women ever to walk this earth.
Alzheimer's Disease is a terminal disease. It is not just an addition to old age, a slight personality trait where you forget where your glasses are. It is a killer. A slow and torturous killer that slowly takes over, snatching away memories, personality, movement - everything that makes you, you.
It is a battle you endure as a family. A battle that leaves an agonising mark on each and every one of you. A long and unyielding battle with an enemy that creeps up on you from behind and changes your life forever.
Alzheimer's Disease is the ultimate long goodbye.
A goodbye you never get chance to say, as at first you did not know what was going on. A goodbye you never get chance to say as you watch a loved one fade away before your very eyes, knowing there is nothing you can do to reverse it. A goodbye you never get chance to say as, for all you try and do to brace yourself for it, you will never be ready for that moment when they first forget who you are, nor is it something you ever get used to.
I will never be able to place the moment I 'lost' my Grandma. In many ways I had lost her long before she passed away, but that did not stop the tidal wave of raw grief when she did.
The ultimate finality of it all. The crux of the longest goodbye I have ever had to say...yet feel like I never actually got chance to say.
Alzheimer's robbed my Grandma of her movement, her personality and her memories. It robbed her of her present and tried taking away her past too.
It also robbed us of our future together.
A future I had always, perhaps naively, just assumed she would be there in. I had never thought that one day I would have to live without her smiling, calm and caring presence in my life.
Because of Alzheimer's, my Grandma never got to and never will dance at any of her grandchildren's weddings. Because of Alzheimer's, my Grandma will never hold her first great-grandchild or any great-grandchildren. Because of Alzheimer's, my Grandma will never see me elected (should my political ambitions come to fruition).
Instead, because of Alzheimer's, I know what it is like to have my Grandma forget who I am. Because of Alzheimer's, we learned what it was like to mourn someone every single day who was still with us, then to mourn them again when they were taken away. Because of Alzheimer's, I saw my Grandma slowly die before my very eyes, desperate to do something to stop it but helpless to. There was simply no way of stopping it.
I could sit here and wallow in sorrow, even get angry about what happened, but I am not one for that. I do not stand on the sidelines when there is something I can do and there is something I can do. There is something we can all do.
A lot of the time while watching my Grandma slowly succumb to Alzheimer's, I felt helpless. Helpless because there was never really anything I could do. We could and did care for her in every way, but we could never stop it or cure it, or even slow it down. I could not do anything to stop the progression of my Grandma's Alzheimer's Disease. But I will do everything I can to ensure others do not have to go through what we had to go through.
I will spend the rest of my life, and any political career I manage to secure, working with others to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. I hope others will join me.
In September, my family and I will be doing the Leeds Memory Walk together in memory of Grandma to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society. I would urge everyone from the bottom of my heart to take part in their local Memory Walk and help raise money and awareness for this fantastic cause. We all need to work together to help find a cure for Alzheimer's and this is one way everyone can do their bit.
I could not stop Alzheimer's from taking my Grandma, but maybe one day I can help stop it taking someone else's Grandma. It might not be this next generation or the generation after, but one day we will find a cure for this heartbreaking disease. It is time for each of us to step up and play our part. It is time to end Alzheimer's.
On Saturday 24th September I will be taking part in the Leeds Memory Walk to support the Alzheimer's Society. My family and I will be doing it together in memory of Grandma. She will be in our thoughts with every step.
This September, Memory Walks will be taking place across the United Kingdom. Please support this important cause and help raise awareness about Alzheimer's Disease. You can find out where your nearest Memory Walk is and sign up at www.memorywalk.org.uk.
Last year I pleaded with you for us to work relentlessly together to, one day, find a cure for Alzheimer's. This year I am here to make the same plea. We can do this. One day we will end Alzheimer's.
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