20,000 reasons to take action on dementia in Northern Ireland

1. Liz Cunningham: her story

Liz Cunningham is 52 and lives in Belfast.  She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when she was 48-years-old. 

Liz Cunningham

'Before my diagnosis, I became very emotional.  I was totally distraught.  I couldn't even form a sentence without crying – I thought I was going mad.  So when the diagnosis came, I was initially relieved.  But when the realisation set in, I was devastated.

Most of the early signs of dementia are invisible and that's what makes it particularly hard to diagnose.  My doctor referred me to a specialist, who diagnosed me.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her.  It was so important to have someone there to deal with my concerns straight away.

Four years on, I realise how lucky I am and I like to think I’m living proof that there is life after diagnosis.  I have support from my husband, family, Hemsworth Court supported housing scheme staff and Alzheimer's Society, which has helped me through the tough times.  I’ve managed to create a new, positive life that has made mine worth living.

But you can feel very isolated.  There's no cure for dementia.  Everyone knows someone with it, so it’s important that people are educated about dementia and support the need for change.  Planning for the future is important because more people are diagnosed each year and we have an ageing population.

I know that there will be no cure for me, but I think we need to fight for those who are yet to be diagnosed.'