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Following a stroke in 2002, Vicki
noonan, a primary school teacher of
more than 30 years, noticed changes
with maths and problem-solving
abilities in the classroom.
in 2013 Vicki was diagnosed
with Younger Onset Dementia.
since the diagnosis, Vicki and her
husband graeme have been active
Dementia Advocates, sharing
their experiences at Dr Kossoff’s
Understanding Younger Onset Dementia
presentation, which was part of
Alzheimer’s Australia’s Quality Dementia
Care Series in the Tweed Valley.
Vicki and graeme are members
of the Northern NSW Consumer
Advisory group and participated in
the Alzheimer’s Australia Consumer
Summit in Canberra in March this year,
where Vicki raised the need for more
dementia-specific services, particularly
for those with Younger Onset Dementia.
graeme also provided feedback from
a carer’s perspective on the CareToons
project, a collaborative study between
Alzheimer’s Australia nsW and the
University of sydney.
As a special surprise to Vicki on
mother’s day, her youngest son James
wrote a piece for his mum. The piece
‘Between now and goodbye’ was
published in The sunday Telegraph.
If you would like to be a Dementia Advocate please contact Jo-Ann Brown or visit
the Fight Dementia website. t: (02) 8875 4636 | E: email@example.com
Vicki and Graeme noonan.
vicKi & gRaeme
the way, buoyed her spirits, cushioned
her falls, and never once dwelled on
the unfairness of it all, the challenges he
faces now and the ones yet to come.
i’ve drawn strength from his resolve
when navigating this uncharted territory
we find ourselves in – for we don’t
always know what to do or how to
handle things, and much of it continues
to be a learning curve. One thing is for
sure: we’re in it together, as a family,
and i plan on being there as much for
With the support of my family and
my friends i’ve been able to crawl
out of the darkness. i ’ve sought
professional help – and regular therapy
sessions have proved invaluable in
my recovery. Mum’s notes keep
piling up, urging me to “live in the
moment”, to be receptive to all the
beauty and wonder to be found in my
present surrounds. it’s a delightfully
idyllic way to live – hard at times,
no doubt – but it is what i wish above
all else for Mum’s future. never far
from my mind is the knowledge that
sufferers often become hostile as the
disease worsens, bitter, violent even.
What i hope, no matter the extent to
which the disease takes hold, is for
her to remain at peace, to still be able
to witness the wonder around her,
to appreciate nature, to smile, and to
laugh – if only on the inside. simply,
As well as cherishing the time we
have now, i try and recall as often as i
can all our happy memories together.
The times we laughed so hard we
both ended up on the floor in fits.
The long walks she and i would take
after school, sharing our stories,
our concerns and frustrations and goals.
One of my greatest joys came a few
years ago, before Mum’s diagnosis,
when she and i travelled to Africa.
Ever since i can recall, she’d wanted
to go there and see the elephants, the
open grasslands, the stunning waterfall
formations – and looking back now,
it was really the only time we could
have done it. We spent three weeks in
south Africa, Botswana and Zambia,
on safari drives, riding elephants,
walking with lion cubs, cruising the
majestic Zambezi river, and i can
honestly say it’s the most special trip i’ve
ever taken. To have accompanied Mum
on her dream voyage, to have created
so many new and wonderful memories
– memories i’m hoping to transport her
back to through our many photo albums
– has been the highlight of my life.
True to form, Mum wrote my brother
and me a letter each, at the time of her
diagnosis. she hasn’t given it to us yet;
in any case, i ’m not ready to read mine.
i have a fairly good idea of what the
letter will contain. it will most certainly
serve as her last. My therapist has
suggested writing one as well, as much
for me as it will be for Mum. A chance
to say everything i wish to say, before
it’s too late. i ’ve gotten as far as “Dear
Mum”, but from there the words don’t
come. it’s not so much the “everything”
I find difficult, but rather the goodbye
that it’s leading to. i’m not ready for that
just yet. i still rely on Mum every day, to
hear her voice telling me she loves me,
that everything will be okay. i need more
than just her letters.
But her letters i will have. And no
matter how far this disease takes over
– even when she is gone from this life
– she’ll still be my mother, she’ll still be
my Dad’s wife, that wonderful fun-
loving friend we all know and love.
For she is far more than her mind and
her body – and like her words to me
over the years which i keep safe in that
old shoebox high up in my cupboard,
she’ll stay with me.
7/08/2015 1:01 pm
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