Six years ago, at age 62, Myriam drove home from her work as a public defender in Skagit County. She came to the same 4-way stop she crossed every day, but suddenly, she didn’t know where she was. She didn’t know whether to turn left, right or go straight. She panicked. In that moment, she knew it was happening to her.
Her father was one of 13 kids and of those children, he and six of his siblings died from Alzheimer’s disease. Most of her paternal cousins died from or currently have Alzheimer’s. They all began to show symptoms in their late 40’s or early 50’s. At 60, Myriam thought she was free and clear. But that moment in her car proved otherwise.
After nearly a year of testing, Myriam learned that she carries the Presenilin 1 gene mutation which if present, guarantees that Alzheimer’s will develop, almost always before the age of 65. Myriam was 63 when her diagnosis was confirmed. “When I learned that I had Alzheimer’s, I decided I was going to be a warrior and help find a cure, because I have children,” said Myriam. “Statistically speaking, if my mother has four children and three of us has Alzheimer’s and I’ve got four children….” Myriam trailed off thinking about her children.
Myriam dedicated her professional life to advocacy. She attended law school at the University of Baltimore and worked for the Maryland General Assembly as a legislative analyst. She also worked at the Montgomery County Council as a legislative counsel, Georgetown Law Center as an adjunct law professor and at AARP as a legislative representative and manager of programs and advocacy. She spent the rest of her career serving in Skagit County as a public defender.
Now, she brings a lifelong passion and expertise to her volunteer role with the Alzheimer’s Association. “I want to do everything I can to help find a cure,” said Myriam, “So I’ve been out there as active as I can possibly be, screaming and yelling from the top of my lungs and telling anyone who will listen that we need a cure.”
Myriam currently volunteers in many roles with the Alzheimer’s Association. She serves as an ambassador, working as a grassroots volunteer who serves as the main point-of-contact to Senator Patty Murray and helps implement federal advocacy activities at the community level.
Additionally, she sits on the Western & Central Washington Chapter’s Early Stage Advisory Council, the Chapter Board of Directors, and the Washington State Alzheimer’s Plan Working Group. She is a peer-to-peer counselor and a Chapter educator, speaking on behalf of the Association on the radio, on television and in person. Today, Myriam is one of over 100,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease in Washington State. By 2050, that number is expected to double, creating a demographic time bomb. “I will do anything [to raise awareness],” said Myriam, “I will stand on my head if I have to!”
On February 25th, Myriam will be joined by volunteer advocates from around the state in Olympia to meet with elected officials, to share their stories and to ask legislators to:
- Support the work of the Alzheimer’s Disease Working Group
- Extend the life of the Joint Legislative-Executive Committee on Aging & Disability
- Fund a study of long-term care alternatives to Medicaid
Myriam’s message is simple, “Advocacy is the vehicle in which we can teach and create change.” Myriam Marquez is a warrior and an advocate – you can be too.