'I lost my wife as a person three years ago, but Alzheimer's is dragging it out'
A Lincolnshire woman is one of the youngest people in the country to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Michelle Boryszczuk was just 39 years old. Today, her husband Steve tells Sam Morris about the agony of seeing his wife struck down so young...
A simple task such as driving home had become too dangerous.
Forgetting to look at crossroads and continuing straight on was becoming commonplace.
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Then, one day, Michelle Boryszczuk decided to give up her driving licence as she recognised she had early onset Alzheimer's.
She was no stranger to the disease, having seen her father die from Alzheimer's aged just 46.
Now, devoted husband Steve, a former fish factory worker, spends up to 12 hours a day at her bedside at the Elms care home in Louth.
"I go and see Michelle from early in the morning and stay until late at night, every single day of the week.
"She doesn't appear to know who I am, but I am sure deep down she does.
"The hardest thing to live with is watching her die. I lost Michelle three years ago as a person, but this is dragging it out," said the 47-year-old.
When her father died, Michelle researched the disease.
She found there are specific genes which cause early onset Alzheimer's. She decided to be tested – and the results changed her life.
She had the gene.
Michelle, a former secretary at Axiom Housing in Market Rasen, became one of only 600 people in the UK in their 30s to be diagnosed with dementia.
Steve said he had not wanted his wife to go for the tests.
"I didn't really want Michelle to know, but she wanted to get her life in order if she got the bad news," he said.
"After the diagnosis, she did a living will and planned everything, as she knew the day would come where she wouldn't be able to do so," said Steve.
The couple met in Market Rasen and married in the town in 1985.
They had two children, Richard, now 26 and Graham, 24.
But the disease put paid to their plans for a long and happy family life.
"We decided to have our children when we were young and we wanted to get on with living our lives.
"But this illness means we can't do that and it is really hard to deal with," Steve said.
Life changed for the family almost instantly after the diagnosis, but Steve fondly remembers the happy times.
"Before she was diagnosed she was such a happy, go-lucky person, walking the dogs for miles every day," he said.
"She used to love doing the gardening, but now she is in the home I have no enthusiasm to do any of that."
The decision to put Michelle in a care home is one that Steve struggles to come to terms with daily.
"I looked after Michelle at home for four years until it got too hard," he said.
"I would have loved to have kept her at home and I would have loved for her to be here now, but it just wouldn't be possible.
"She went into a home in October and I still find it difficult to come to terms with the fact I have put her in a home, but I know that was the only option possible."
Mr Boryszczuk is now fundraising for the Alzheimer's Society and will be taking part in the Great Wall of China Trek in October, walking alongside his brother Stanley.
The pair hope to raise in excess of £10,000. "I was asked if I would like to do the Great Wall of China," he said. "I agreed to it and I have raised about £4,000 already.
"My brother decided he wanted to do it with me too and he has already got about £2,000."
Steve has been training hard for the event, which will see him trekking for up to eight hours a day.
"I am really looking forward to it," he said.
"I am doing it because of Michelle, but it will also be a good experience for me.
"I won't be stopping my fundraising after this, I have never been that charitable but this is now close to my heart and I want to do as much as I can."
Ian Howarth, area manager for Alzheimer's Society in the East Midlands said: "We rely on voluntary donations like those that Steve is raising to continue our vital work.
"I would like to say a big thankyou to Steve for his support in taking on this challenge."
To sponsor Steve, visit www.justgiving.com/steve-boryszczuk