Between coaching softball, engaging city government to keep child resource centres open, raising her four daughters and supporting people living with dementia, Myrna Norman has always worked to advocate for others.
On Groundhog Day — February 2, 1949 — a healthy baby girl was born in Saskatoon, Sask.
Her birthmother named her Leslie but was unable to care for her daughter at the time, so the newborn was placed under the care of family friends who called her Myrna.
Shortly after, Myrna’s adopted family moved to British Columbia. Her father was a trucker, and Myrna remembers moving through the province often.
Myrna had always wanted to have lots of her own children, and she gave birth to four daughters within five years before marrying her now-husband, Dave, in 1995. Dave brought his two sons into their blended family, and the couple spent much of their free time fishing around their home in Nelson, B.C.
Myrna and Dave started Pillar to Post Home Inspection together shortly after getting married, which ran successfully for many years until Myrna started to struggle with the math when working on the company’s bookkeeping.
She was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2008, and her doctor gave her eight years to live. Shocked and afraid, Myrna and Dave moved to Maple Ridge to be closer to their kids.
Now, 12 years later, Myrna is going strong. Her diagnosis changed to mild cognitive impairment in 2011, and, while she still struggles with her short-term memory, Myrna is committed to sharing her experience to help others.
“I had people give to me when I was growing up, and it’s vital that I give back, that’s just part of who I want to be,” she says. “It was really crushing to think that I couldn’t be a productive citizen. So I did everything I could do to help and stay involved. Now, I’m super, super busy. And I’ve pretty much been really busy since I decided to become an advocate.”
As a member of 12 different committees, including Dementia Advocacy Canada, Myrna speaks publicly about living with dementia and helps with dementia support groups in her community. She participates in workshops and art projects at the University of British Columbia, and has had her poetry published by the university. In 2018, she also published a short children’s book called Sometimes my Nana, to help children understand dementia and why their grandma might call them by the wrong name.
“By doing things like this, I’m able to stay as well as I am,” she says. “I have some difficulties later in the evenings, but in other things I’m actually improving — and I swear it has to be my advocacy work.” [ ]
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