The Chronicle Herald (Metro)
Prof cycles around N.S. to support research
A small gathering outside a Halifax bike retailer on Friday honoured the efforts of Dalhousie University researcher John Archibald after the successful conclusion of his cycling campaign around all of Nova Scotia in support of dementia research.
The Cycle of Life Ride for Dementia is a fundraising awareness project centred on supporting the Alzheimer's Society of Nova Scotia and the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank at Dalhousie University.
“This is a facility that supports basic research into brain science and dementia research toward cures, ultimately, and diagnoses and treatments,” Archibald said of the brain bank.
Raising awareness is also important to the Dal professor and researcher in the fields of molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and microbial evolution.
“There's obviously stigma associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia so it was a way for me to play a small role in sort of opening that dialogue a little bit.”
Archibald said his father was diagnosed in 2014, which started the family journey down the road so many now are experiencing.
He said it took him nine days to ride around the circumference of the province — a total of about 2,400 kilometres.
“The original plan was to do that in seven days. The weather was interesting at times, but we did what one does under those circumstances. You work with what you've got.”
Archibald left Halifax on July 1, heading north along the Eastern Shore, proceeding counterclockwise up through Cape Breton and then back to the mainland, toward the border with New Brunswick, then along the Bay of Fundy and Yarmouth and up along the South Shore before arriving back in Halifax on July 9.
“We've raised about $21,000 so far, and it's being split between the Alzheimer's Society and DMRF — Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation — and those moneys are going directly to the Brain Tissue Bank,” he said.
Shortly after he said that, he received a donation during the ceremony outside Cyclesmith, bringing his total close to $25,000.
The charitable portal at his blog (cycleoflife.ca) is still accepting donations until the end of the month.
“I've been posting blogs about my family's experiences with dementia and things about the ride and the importance of the fundraising. Again, towards opening the dialogue and making people more aware and more comfortable having difficult conversations.”
Linda Bird, director of programs and services with Alzheimer's Nova Scotia said Archibald's efforts raised important funds that will help with the programming throughout Nova Scotia, she said.
“But even more importantly, to me, is he brought awareness and a focus through his blog of how families experience dementia and I hope that's a good starting point for people to read, understand, have the discussions with their family and their neighbours and start talking about the disease and all the symptoms,” Bird said. “And all of the challenges families face so that we, as a community can better support people.”
She said it's a real gift when someone can publicly share the journey, the ups and downs, the hard parts and transitions.
“We're so thankful for people like John and his family who step forward and share their story because the storytelling is what's going to help us understand better. We can give you all kinds of statistics and things but it's the stories and how they deal with it and how they dealt with supporting John and one another through the journey because it's a real compassionate story.”
Dr. Sultan Darvesh, director of the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank, also had high praise for Archibald's efforts.
“This is a huge thing for us … at many levels,” Darvesh said.
“He has done this on his father's behalf, but also he has done it on (behalf of) all the people who have been affected by this condition — the individuals and their families.”
To bring awareness of the condition that turns people's lives upside down is one of the biggest results, he added.
“The other level is to make people aware about the research and the necessity of doing research in Alzheimer's disease because we have to find a cure. Not finding a cure is not an option.”
To be able to raise funds for the brain bank is also vitally important, Darvesh said, because you need human brain tissue to understand what is happening.
“There is no satisfactory animal model of Alzheimer's disease. So you have to have human brain tissues – people who have had Alzheimer's disease or people who are normal to compare.”