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Leading the walk against dementia stigma

Transcona woman the honorary marshal for Memory Walk 2014

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Tanis Rummery will be participating in her fourth Alzheimer Society of Manitoba Memory Walk on June 12.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Tanis Rummery will be participating in her fourth Alzheimer Society of Manitoba Memory Walk on June 12. Photo Store

Tanis Rummery hopes to help perpetuate a sense of understanding when it comes to dementia.

The 72-year-old Transcona resident is taking her role — marshal for the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba’s Memory Walk, set for June 12 at 5 p.m. at The Forks — seriously.

Rummery was diagnosed with vascular dementia four years ago, and said while the act of cutting the ribbon to kick off the proceedings is little more than a formality, she hopes to use the platform to raise awareness of the disease.

Rummery is part of the Ninja Turtles team — "we’re kind of slow," she said — is glad to see people along the route wave to walkers who spread the word as they go by. Still, there’s more to be done to help generate a sense of inclusion and harmony for anyone suffering from a mental illness.

"I want them to look at people and give them a break. So we talk slower or we miss a word, fill in the blank and let’s just keep going," she said. "If I’m in a store and there’s something wrong with the bill, I just go to the service station and tell her (the employee) quietly. I don’t go over a loudspeaker and say ‘Look, I’ve got dementia, could you help me?’

"I’ll say ‘Look, I’m having a problem with the dementia at the moment, could you help me?’"

She noted she’d hoped a fellow Turtle would get the nod to cut the ribbon to open the walk, but understands why she was asked to take the part.

"I was hoping that somebody else on my team would get the honour, but their speech might be just a little bit slower than some, and if they get nervous, maybe they’ll hang back from the walk," Rummery said. "I don’t want anybody hanging back from the walk in my group — believe me."

She’s always taken an accepting but head-on approach to the disease. Shortly after her diagnosis, Rummery recalled asking her doctor whether he’d take dementia or cancer given the choice, and he took a while to mull it over.

"He said ‘I think you know my answer,’" she recalled. "I said ‘Of course you’d rather have cancer — there’s a fighting chance.’

"With Alzheimer’s, there is no cure, and for sure, it gets worse."

Rummery said she’s relying on the society’s client services co-ordinator, Cheryl Demasi, to keep an eye on her as the disease progresses and she needs extra care and attention.

For now, the former nurse is still volunteering with Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba, and participates in support groups through the society, which provides everything from contacts for nursing homes, financial solutions, legal help, or other pertinent information.

"If anybody’s having problems, we fill in the blanks for them, too," Rummery said, adding people as young as their 50s are in the group. "We don’t just sit there like a bunch of dummies getting notes thrown at us — here’s what your disease is doing now.

"When you get the disease, you don’t even remember what they were. We were people — we were functioning people."

For more information on Memory Walk 2014, visit http://www.alzheimer.mb.ca/memorywalk2014/

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