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Kerry doing her bit for Alzheimer's battle after rare genetic form of condition impacts her family


Kerry Bryson in running kit

Kerry Bryson in running kit

Kerry at Stormont

Kerry at Stormont

Kerry Bryson in running kit

A mum-of-two whose family has been hit by early-onset Alzheimer's is taking on a half-marathon to raise money for research into the devastating disease.

Kerry Bryson, from Dundonald, Co Down, is one of around 300 runners signed up to the first ever London Landmarks Half Marathon for Alzheimer's Research UK.

The 37-year-old was inspired to get involved after a number of relatives on her mother's side were hit by a rare genetic form of the condition.

One uncle died aged just 57, while another is in a dementia care unit aged 54. Her grandfather died at 54, while six of his eight siblings also passed away in their 50s.

Familial Alzheimer's disease, which is caused by a faulty gene, is very rare, accounting for less than one percent of all cases of Alzheimer's.

Someone with a parent affected by familial Alzheimer's has a 50% chance of inheriting the gene, and if they do they are almost certain to develop the condition at around the same age.

Luckily, though, Kerry's mother Selina Neill did not inherit the faulty gene, so Kerry herself is free from it too. She said: "Alzheimer's has always been a part of our family. My grandad died when I was five and now it's affecting my mum's generation. One of my uncles has died while another is in the latter stages of the disease.

"Seeing their decline with the disease was very sad to watch. It's as if their brains closed down, they forgot how to do things. It's like they forgot how to live. Although it's a relief that my mum doesn't have the gene, it has still been really tough for her. She had to nurse her dad and then her two brothers.

"As she chose not to find out if she had the gene, we had to wait to see if she developed symptoms in her late 40s. It was a very worrying time having that hanging over your head. Everyone was on alert and it would be very suffocating for her. If she did something like putting an item in the wrong cupboard, you'd worry that she had it."

Kerry's mum, an aunt and two uncles were involved in pioneering research that helped identify the faulty gene. They went to University College London once a year for more than a decade from the mid-1990s for various tests and scans.

Kerry said: "I'm very proud that my mum played a role in important research and was able do something positive out of something so horrible. It's vital to support dementia research so future generations don't have to go through what my family have been through."

Kerry has already smashed her £350 fundraising target, with her total now around £600.

Kenneth Foreman, senior sporting events manager at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Kerry's story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family."

If you are inspired to join the fight against dementia, Alzheimer's Research UK is looking for volunteers to set up a fundraising group in Belfast.

The charity is looking for people with a range of skills to help set up the group, which is aiming to raise vital funds and awareness.

Members can get involved in a range of ways, from getting stuck into fundraising challenges to representing Alzheimer's Research UK at events. For details contact Matt Clarke, Alzheimer's Research UK's regional fundraising officer for NI on, tel: 07584 657587 or email matt.clarke@alzheimersresearchuk.org. To sponsor Kerry visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kerrybryson

Belfast Telegraph