Woman with dementia completes mammoth trek raising money for research

Olive-Ronnie-Santiago-de-Compastelo-3

By Alice Tuohy | Wednesday 12 September 2018

A Perthshire woman who is determined to ‘live life to the full’ despite being diagnosed with dementia has completed a mammoth trek to raise money for pioneering research.

Olive Ronnie - Santiago de Compastelo

Olive and Ronnie – Santiago de Compastelo

Olive Munro, 67, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia around three years ago, walked the famous Comino de Santiago pilgrimage route through France and northern Spain with her husband, Ronnie, for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Walking a minimum of 10km each day, the couple took two months to complete the 780km route – a month quicker than planned.

They enjoyed the experience so much they are planning an even bigger challenge next year – the 1,000km Via Francigena trek from the Swiss Alps to Rome.

Olive, who lives in Ardtalnaig on the south side of Loch Tay, said:

“When I found out I had dementia I was upset and it took me about a month to come to terms with it. But my attitude is to get on with it and live life to the full, so I’ve decided to do what I can to support dementia research while I’m still able to.

“I was looking for ideas for something we could do to raise money. There are some things I can’t do, but I watched the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, where they trek the Comino de Santiago route, and I thought ‘I can walk, let’s go for that’.

“The trek was very tough, but we got stronger and stronger each day.

“The hardest point was early on when we both got sick. Because we were focused on walking, we didn’t realise how ill we were. We had to stop and rest for three days.

“The highlight was at the Cruz de Ferro where we joined in the tradition of leaving stones at the cross. We left five stones – one from Loch Tay; one from Shetland as that’s where my family come from; one from Crete as I love the island; one with a puffin on it as I love puffins; and one I picked up early in the trek.

“There’s such a friendly atmosphere on the route. I was going up a steep hill when I still wasn’t 100 per cent after being ill and I was struggling. Lots of people stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed help.

“We wore Alzheimer’s Research UK T-shirts every day and people were always coming up to chat to us and ask us about the charity.”

Olive Munro

Olive Munro

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia and occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes reduced.

Olive, who lived in Canada for more than 40 years and managed a care home for disabled people, said:

“My symptoms are mild at the moment. I mostly have problems with mental arithmetic. I also occasionally forget words. In the middle of a conversation I find I can’t remember a word and have to try to describe the word I’m looking for.

“One of the hardest things is the memory problems. I can remember the big things but I occasionally forget the little day-to-day things.

“I also find I don’t take in information as well as I used to. For example, when I go to church I’m not able to take in everything the minister says.”

Olive and Ronnie raised £2,700 for the UK’s leading dementia research charity. To sponsor them go to https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/olivemunro2

Kyle Lockhart, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Fundraising Officer for Scotland, said:

“We are in awe of Olive for taking on this trek and raising so much money for pioneering dementia research.

“Her story is a powerful challenge to the common misconception that dementia only affects older people. She’s proof that while a dementia diagnosis is devastating, people with dementia can lead fulfilling lives.

“The vital funds raised by Olive and Ronnie will power world-class dementia research projects to help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

If you’d like to take on your own adventure, there are places available for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Machu Picchu trek in May next year. For more information go to www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/event/trek-machu-picchu

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org

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About the author

Alice Tuohy