SOME days Alzheimer’s disease makes father-of-three Tony Garrood feel ‘vulnerable’.
After being diagnosed with dementia a year ago, the Scholes man is struggling to come to terms with the effects the progressive brain disease will have on he and his family.
But the 62-year-old is fighting back.
On Wednesday he’ll hop on his bike for a gruelling cycle ride from London to Paris to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.
The challenge is four days and Tony aims to pedal approximately 55 to 80 miles per day alongside a team of other fundraisers.
“I enjoy pushing myself,’’ he said. “The worst thing you can do when you’ve had a difficult time is to stop.
“You want to find new openings and to push yourself in new directions..”
Tony, whose wife Jacqueline is an English teacher at Honley High School, wants to widen people’s understanding of dementia.
He wants to turn the negative aspects of having Alzheimer’s into positives by campaigning and raising money to help find a cure.
He added: “In the past dementia and Alzheimer’s was kept very much in the dark.
“People didn’t talk about it and weren’t upfront about it.
“Mrs Thatcher had it for years and never talked about it.”
Tony takes inspiration from famous fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who is also living with the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Pratchett, patron of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, regularly campaigns in the media for a greater understanding of dementia.
Tony told the Examiner: “Terry Pratchett has been upfront about it and I’ve taken his lead.
“He is a hero of mine and I think that he has helped raise the profile of dementia considerably.
“If there’s a good time to have dementia, it is now.”
This month UK scientists working with a French team identified three genes closely linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Blocking the genes’ effects on the body could cut numbers of ‘common’ late-onset sufferers by a fifth.
The breakthrough, announced in the journal Nature Genetics, was called “the biggest advance in Alzheimer’s research for 15 years” by UK team leader Prof Julie Williams.
Tony worked as a senior lecturer at Huddersfield University for 30 years.
He retired from lecturing aged 55 and spent a year working with Yorkshire Water.
When his contract ran out he applied for over 150 jobs, but never got an interview.
So he re-trained as a massage therapist, but over time some of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s became more noticeable and he was diagnosed with the disease in both the back and front of his brain.
The brain disorder begins with slight memory loss until it gradually worsens and becomes severe.
Tony is one of around 1,000 people in Kirklees with some form of dementia.
He was diagnosed after his 35-year-old daughter Penny, a medic, spotted signs of the disease.
Tony said: “I knew I was struggling a little bit after taking early retirement – but she was the one who spotted it and said I should get checked out.”
Tony has received care and support from St Luke’s Hospital at Crosland Moor. “The team at St Luke’s have been very supportive.”
He added: “I think it gave me a thin skin at times.
“Small things would upset me. It was rather like walking on hot coals at times.”
It’s not the first time keen cyclist Tony has taken on a challenge for charity.
Last year – before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – he rode nearly 500 miles through China to help people with cancer.
To wish Tony well and sponsor him on his trip to Paris visit www.justgiving.co.uk/ANTHONY-GARROOD