A 26-year-old from Cramlington will be following the same Great North Run course that her father ran years ago to fundraise in his memory, alongside her cousin, Fi, and her husband, Haji.
Lisa Pongwa’s father, Colin Johnson, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009, with a further diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
Lisa said: “It began small, like forgetting discussions in meetings then struggling to put names to faces, and slowly it began to affect his confidence.
“My mum, Pam, cared for him at home for four years as he deteriorated, before he went into care.
“As he was such a physically fit man all his life it was so hard for us to watch him struggling with simple tasks like walking and getting his words out.”
Lisa and her family did everything they could to support him as the disease began to take over his life.
She said: “We set up weekly sessions at Storm Gym for him where he amazed us all by showing how he had kept his excellent hand eye coordination and ability to run even though he was hesitant when walking.
“After the stimulation of these sessions, he always showed his appreciation with a 'thank you' and biggest of smiles, and momentarily he was able to recognise my mum.
“It was as if the physical exercise had 'jogged' his memory and the old him was back with us.
“The videos I have of him running at the gym are a great treasure of mine and my brother's.”
Sadly, in January of this year, Colin passed away aged 67.
She said: “As all those suffering from these diseases do, he showed nothing but tremendous strength and bravity throughout.
“He took part in numerous medical trials, even donating his brain to Alzheimer's Research with the view of wanting to try anything he could to help those who will sadly follow in his path.”
At his funeral, his friends, family and former colleagues raised over £1000 for Alzheimer's Research.
Lisa’s cousin, Fi, had ran with Colin in previous Great North Run events and suggested that Lisa and Haji join her to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s Disease.
The Simplyhealth Great North Run takes place on Sunday 10 September, when thousands will take on the 13.1-mile distance.
Lisa said: “I have always been active but never much of a runner so it is a daunting challenge.
“My brother and I used to run alongside my Dad as he trained for the Great North Run, but he would always leave us miles behind!
“I completed the Great North 10K in July earlier this year which was amazing; the atmosphere on the day was so good that it really helped me get to the finish line.”
Lisa will be following in her father’s footsteps as she makes her way from Newcastle to South Shields this September in her team of three.
Support their fundraising page for Parkinson’s.
For more information about the Simplyhealth Great North Run, visit our website.