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My friends didn’t believe me when I told them I had Alzheimer’s disease

My friends didn’t believe me when I told them I had Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 39, it just doesn’t make sense to people. I’m ex-army, I’ve travelled the world and I’m fighting fit – how can I have something like that? We still think of Alzheimer’s as a bit of forgetfulness as we get older. The truth is far worse.

My family has been hit hard by Alzheimer’s disease. I carry a rare genetic mutation which I inherited from my dad, and it means I’ll develop Alzheimer’s at a very young age. Dad died aged 42. He was in hospital so long I don’t really remember him. His sister died at 41 as she inherited the faulty gene too. Although only 400 families have what we have, the disease hits us in the same way it does when people get Alzheimer’s later in life. Our memories will leave us, we lose the ability to do day-to-day things and end up needing lots of care.

I’m one of four kids, and we all had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene from Dad. My two sisters avoided it, and my brother and I got it. But that’s how it should be – the lads should take the hit!

Although I know what will happen to me in the coming years, I wanted to do something to fight back against the disease – to do as much as I can while I can. It’s simple for me, you have to hit the enemy directly, so I’ve taken on a challenge to help support research.

I’m going to cycle 16,000 miles around North America. It’s going to take me a year to do it, but I hope giving one of my good years to this challenge will help give many more good years to people with dementia.

A cure may come too late for me, but it will help my kids. We’ve got man to the moon, so we’ll get to the answers if we put enough into it. I hope what I’m doing will help inspire people to support Alzheimer’s Research UK. Alzheimer’s disease is our biggest enemy, but research is our most powerful weapon.

Thanks for reading

Chris Graham
March 2015

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2 Comments

  1. Sandra on 13th March 2015 at 2:30 pm

    What an inspirational chap you are ! We saw you on BBC 6pm news the other day…….. a bit of a strange moment when we heard your name as my friend has early onset and her name is Chris Graham …….!!

    Well done for highlighting your plight and that of your family ………. I can only wonder how you all cope .Thank you for helping to get through to the general public that Alzheimer’s isn’t just a disease of the ”elderly” and with luck the ”stigma” will also be kicked into touch .

    Good luck for your future and for the cycle ride !

  2. Donna on 13th March 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you Chris Graham, about time early onset alzheimers was finally in the media! My family also suffers from this rare form of alzheimers and i find it upsetting that it always goes unmentioned….until now!
    Good luck!

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About the author

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, from Carterton, Oxfordshire, is living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at just 39 years old. The ex-serviceman discovered in 2010 that he carried the same faulty gene which claimed the lives of his father, aunt, cousin and granddad, all in their forties. This rare, inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease has also left his 43-year-old brother in a nursing home. Chris took on a mammoth trip and cycled 16,000 miles around Canada and America in 2015, all to raise awareness of dementia and funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.