Mary Hudak is a fighter.
The Lake of the Woods resident has battled and won against breast cancer, depression and is now fighting a battle against Alzheimer’s Disease.
Her daughter, Debbie Jockin, praised her mother and all those fighting Alzheimer’s during the Central and Western Va. Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s Sept. 9.
Mary was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, five years ago at age 75, Jockin said, and while it has been daunting at times to face as a family, there is help and hope.
“Mary is the person she always will be, regardless of any diagnosis that may come her way” Jockin said. “My mother is self sacrificing, hard working, self sufficient, highly educated and an ever compassionate person who continues to live her life with dignity and purpose.”
Hudak, a retired professor of psychology at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., first had health issues the first year into her retirement – when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought and won that battle before being diagnosed with depressive episodes.
“Over time and living as a Christian with a faith filled spirit, I’ve witnessed my mother suffer through these conditions and find her way back to a peaceful place of hope and healing,” Jockin said.
“Mom continues to carry herself with grace, dignity and an ever fighting spirit. However, she cannot fight this path alone.”
It’s a fight that more than 5 million other Americans face every day, and the number is only growing.
Sue Friedman, CEO/President of Central and Western Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said that more than 600 walks are held throughout the country and eight in Central and Western Va.
“This is our premier event,” Friedman said. “It’s a way to help people understand we have programs and services. We have research opportunities.”
The Alzheimer’s Association was founded in 1980, in an effort to help clarify what the disease was and to help find a cure.
“I think there’s still some misunderstanding about what is normal and what is not normal,” Friedman said.
Those facing cognitive issues are at risk for fraud, she said, pointing out that the number one elder abuse issue in the state is financial fraud. It’s events like last weekend’s that help raise awareness so those who suffer with the disease will not be taken advantage of.
“People with cognitive problems who have not made their plans in advance can sometimes be very vulnerable,” Friedman said.
Jenna Mullins, with Home Instead, said the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is key to helping find a cure.
“Today is amazing, we really strive to educate our community,” Mullins said. “With so many families moving into the area, this is fast becoming a retirement area.”
This year, the chapter set a goal of $52,000 and to date have raise $28,762.23. This year’s walk had 31 teams with more than 150 walkers. While it’s about helping raise awareness and funds for those that suffer, it’s also a path for caregivers to use to find out about services.
“Caregivers can feel they are on an island by themselves,” Mullins said. “Culpeper has such excellent resources. We have support groups, we have the Alzheimer’s Association, there are seminars held at the library. There’s a lot available for people, they just have to reach out.”
Pastor Brad Hales, of Reformation Lutheran Church, walks with Gary’s Gang, in memory of John Gary Van Ness – a longtime member of the church who died following a battle with Alzheimer’s.
“This is a very special day,” Hales said. “As a pastor for 23 years, I’ve worked with so many folks and families that have alzheimer’s disease. It’s just a horrific disease, what people go through and what the caregivers go through. I think it’s really important that we’re here to support people going through that.”
For more information about Alzheimer’s or to get help, call the association at 1-800-272-3900 or visit www.alzfdn.org.