When I was growing up, my grandad Peter Torby was my absolute hero. He was one of the nicest and hardest working people you’ll ever meet – a real legend in my eyes.
I was badly bullied at school. Kids would pick fights with me for no reason and really made my life hell. This one guy beat me up so badly that I had to go to hospital, and my parents reported it to the police.
My Grandad used to be a professional boxer and represented our country internationally, so he really knew his stuff. Seeing me so upset, he took me to his gym and taught me the ropes of boxing to boost my self-confidence.
The bully’s family actually came to the gym to threaten me, but my Grandad, then in his 60s, didn’t back down and told these much younger guys that they would have to go through him if they wanted to get to me. That’s exactly the kind of man he was – strong, kind and fiercely protective of his family.
My mum told me recently that he even used to park his car round the corner from my school at lunchtimes and watch the playground to check I was okay.
Grandad was always there for me, no matter what.
Grandad’s dementia diagnosis
When Grandad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease aged 65, everything changed. He used to be such a proud, independent man but he was suddenly forced to rely on others, which hit him really hard.
I struggle with seeing the effect of Grandad’s diagnosis on us as a family, especially given that they’re in Australia and I’m based over a thousand miles away here in England. It’s really hard not being there physically to support them day to day. Sometimes my mum will visit him and he won’t recognise her.
To see Grandad so unsettled and confused, calling for his own mum who died 30 years ago, is really, really tough for us, and it’s spurred me on to take action of my own.
Why I’ve joined the Dementia Revolution
I’m not necessarily a natural runner, but when I heard about the Dementia Revolution being the official charity for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to do my bit. My grandad fought for me, and now it’s my chance to fight for him.
The Dementia Revolution is funding the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI), the most ambitious dementia research initiative in the UK. Right now, hundreds of researchers across six different centres are all working to find better treatments for people with dementia, like my Grandad. The UK DRI is pioneering research that’s already made breakthroughs and could ultimately help lead to a cure.
So that’s why I’ve swapped my suits for running shoes. I can’t sit back and let dementia win.
My longest run so far is 12k so there’s still quite a way to go, but at least I’m a quarter through and I’m actually enjoying the challenge! I’m having to ditch the KFCs too, which is possibly a bigger struggle, but it’ll all be worth it.
Marathon day will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and an opportunity to make a very public stand against dementia.
When training does get tough, I think of Grandad and everything he did for me when I was growing up and that keeps me going. Running for the Dementia Revolution and powering dementia research is my way of saying thank you to Grandad – I know that will drive me over the finish line.
Join the Revolution
You don't have to run the London Marathon to be part of the Revolution.
By making a donation you will help power groundbreaking research at the UK Dementia Research Institute.