My name is Kuntal Joisher and Everest was my mountain but my father is my story.
I know hundreds of people attempt to summit the highest point in the world, but I’d like to think my journey is special. I climbed in honor of my father, who has been living with Lewy body dementia for over a decade. Several years ago, when the disease finally stole the last of his independence, my wife and I became his primary caregivers. After experiencing the effects of LBD on my father, and the rest of our family, I decided to use my journey to Everest as a platform to raise awareness.
Growing up, it’s impossible for a child to imagine his or her parents ever growing elderly or falling ill. It’s typical for a child to believe they will be around, lending support to their dreams; whether that’s blasting off to the moon or climbing the tallest mountain in the world.
When I was 21 years old, I moved to pursue my Masters in Computer Science. Most of my family thought that once gone I would never return back home, including my father. Up until my move, my relationship with my father was disconnected, like a plug lying just inches away from the outlet.
The day of my farewell was the first time I saw my father differently. He had a look sorrow in his eyes, and at the same time, sheer happiness. Sadly, that was the last time I saw my father’s eyes with clarity. I reflect upon the situation, I believe he must have known something was wrong. I have to imagine he felt some kind of intuition that something was happening to him. Today I would give anything to just see him smile and to see that clarity again.
Since I can’t have my father the way I once remember, I try to find pieces of him in myself. I see him the most in my passion for climbing. Like me, he was fond of the mountains, nature and the wilderness. As Alan Arnett, a famous mountaineer and Alzheimer’s awareness advocate, once said, “Memories are everything” and in my case it’s very true. Even though my dad is alive, he doesn’t recognize me or even remember my name. He doesn’t have the ability to make new memories and nor will he ever understand we share the same passions. He will never know my Everest climb was all for him.
As I climb new mountains and face new challenges I use those moments alone to reflect on my father. I create the memories my father can no longer able to do on his own. I have committed myself to spreading awareness and recognizing caregivers. With the Lewy Body Dementia Association you can help in those efforts.
The Lewy Body Dementia Association supports those affected by Lewy body dementias, their families and caregivers through outreach, education and research. LBDA is dedicated to raising awareness and promoting scientific advances.
While caring for my father has been the most emotionally challenging experience, I’m excited to use my most physically demanding trial of my life, climbing Mt. Everest, as an awareness platform. My father gave me the mountains, and I will repay him by climbing them in his honor.
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