Almost three months and more than 5,000 kilometres after beginning, Tanya Lee Howe and Jocelyn Rawleigh’s bike ride across Canada to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease is almost complete.
Howe knew that more than 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, but it was when her own mother became affected several years ago that the fight became personal. She did what many adults do: Howe became an adult caretaker of a parent, moving her mother from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, into her sister-in-law’s house in Lethbridge, Alberta, where her mother would spend her evenings. During the day Howe would spend time with her mother at her own home, doing her laundry, cooking, and ensuring her mother bathed regularly and didn’t do anything to harm herself. It was a lot of emotional, tiring work to care for a person who was becoming less and less able to care for herself.
Howe found that there was no “how-to” guide that could really help someone in her situation. Not one to sit idle, Howe wrote a book about her experiences, Supporting Parents with Alzheimer’s, that not only chronicles her story, but offers helpful suggestions for others in the same circumstances she faced.
Once that was done, she realized she could do more. Inspired by the need for Alzheimer’s awareness and watching Terry Fox run across the country when she was a child, Tanya decided to cycle across Canada with friend Jocelyn Rawleigh.
“A book wasn’t enough. I needed to bring awareness to the topic,” she said. “And what better way than a grassroots bike ride across the country; something I’ve always wanted to do anyway? I was just waiting for someone who would be solid enough to do this journey with me so when I told Jocelyn about it five years or so ago, she said she’d do it! And she was stubborn enough to stick by her words.”
Howe and Rawleigh started in British Columbia, at the Pacific Ocean in White Rock on May 29, 2013. Since then, it’s been cycling, motels, and camping (occasionally, even impromptu camping near bear trails and highways when there was nowhere else to pitch a tent). Along the way they’ve spoken with media and locals, spreading the word that there are ways to help those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The two should complete the trek by reaching the Atlantic Ocean shortly and plan to fly home to Alberta on August 28.
“Everyone said we were crazy … [but] anyone who knows me should know when I put my mind to something I do it,” she said.
Howe is looking forward to a few things upon her return, notably soaking in the tub, sleeping, and watching television, which she hasn’t had much of on the road. Most importantly, though, she plans to park her bike for a night and get back to using her own advice for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, by spending quality time together and taking her mom to the movies.
“I miss doing that with her,” she said.
and visit her blog.