West Lothian woman to climb Ben Lomond for Alzheimer Scotland in memory of her mum

A West Lothian woman is set to embark on the challenge of a lifetime in memory of her mum, to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Scotland.

Sophie O’Brien, from Winchburgh, will take part in the charity’s Memory Walk later this month as she clambers up Ben Lomond, which stands at a massive 974 metres.

The 32-year-old’s mum, Lesley O’Brien, sadly passed away in March after a two-year battle with dementia.

Speaking about her motivation for signing up for the September 18 event, Sophie said: “I decided to join this year’s Memory Walk in honour of my amazing mum.

West Lothian woman Sophie O’Brien (right) with mum Lesley O’Brien, who sadly passed away in March.

“My mum was the strongest woman I have ever met. Full of life, she loved her independence and had the most infectious laugh.

“Her outlook on life and positive attitude will always be something I admire.

“My mum was my biggest cheerleader – and me hers. She showed both my brother Chris and I so much love and support growing up that I felt I could do anything.

“Having become a mother myself recently, I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve wished I could pick up the phone for a chat, ask advice and share memories of my son, Caleb, with her. I know she would have loved every second of this journey with me.

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“Caleb, who is 10 months old, won’t remember mum or see the amazing woman she was, but he will know her, I talk about her every day.

“If I’m half the woman and mother she was, I’ll be happy.”

The family were shocked by cancer-survivor Lesley’s dementia diagnosis - and Sophie is keen to raise awareness as well as much-needed funds through her walk.

Sophie, who was born in Liverpool, continued: “She was diagnosed just before lockdown, but looking back I think the signs were already there. You just didn’t know. You’re in denial aren’t you?

“She had such an amazing personality and at first we thought: ‘Oh, it’s just one of her quirks’. But each time you go home you see a difference. I’d go down every week that we were allowed to see her.

“It was quick and I think I was a bit naive. I didn’t realise that it would take her like that. It was really quick, I think it was two years. A really strange time for us.”

Taking part in her first walk, Sophie is keen to soak it all in by getting an early start at the trek.

Once she’s climbed to the summit, a moment will no doubt be had to reflect and honour her mum’s life.

Sophie said: “She had cancer in 2000 and raised money for the Walk for Life. I just thought I’d do this for her and raise awareness. Bringing awareness to this truly awful disease is what it’s all about.

“This disease doesn’t just affect older people, it’s not a natural part of ageing. Know the signs and get an early diagnosis. I just want people to not be afraid and to understand it.

“It affects their whole personality and it’s like grieving one person and then this new person comes and then you grieve them. It’s like grieving twice in a strange way.”

She added: “The plan is to get there nice and early to truly take in all its beauty.

“My mum was so fit and active, more so than me. I know she would love this walk. She walked everywhere and loved nature. She was the quickest walker ever, I had to run to keep up with her as a kid!

“We had a German shepherd and my mum was a fit little lady because of it. She was so strong, funny and feisty. We have lots of happy memories.”

You can support Sophie’s Memory Walk by donating via her fundraising page here: memorywalk.alzscot.org/sophie-obrien