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Hixson resident’s story published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

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From left, Kelle Riley and Madison Vincent pose with a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias” in the Alzheimer’s Association office in East Brainerd.

Hixson resident Kelle Riley was just about to enter the operating room when her mother grasped her hand and fervently said, “I love you.”

Though her mother was often lost in the haze of dementia, during moments like those — like when Riley needed the comfort of a mother as she prepared to have her cancer-ridden thyroid removed — she returned to her.

“You can be in mourning for decades,” Riley said, explaining that her mother began showing signs of dementia in 2005. “We had been losing our mother 10-12 years before her body left us.”

Riley’s spunky, passionate mother Mabel A. Bennett died in January 2013, but Riley’s keeping her memory alive with a story she wrote that was recently published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias.” The book is a collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Association and “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” said Madison Vincent, Chattanooga Alzheimer’s Association chapter communications manager.

“The whole purpose behind the ‘Chicken Soup’ book is to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s,” said Vincent. “Right now more than 5 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s.”

And Riley, already a published author as well as a chemist and third-degree black belt, knows firsthand what it’s like to live with the disease. She said the first time she really began to mourn her mother was when she sat down to pen the story for “Chicken Soup.”

“It really helped me step outside of the chaos I had been living with and see how [my mom] dealt with that disease,” she said of writing the story. “I really think there is a spirit that stays strong throughout it [the disease]. Remember that the person you love is still inside. There’s a part of them that still knows you, even if they can’t express it.”

Vincent said the Alzheimer’s Association office, located at 7625 Hamilton Park Drive, Suite 22, is a great resource for families with a loved one diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“We want people to know we are here,” she said. “Our services are all free. We offer support groups, all kinds of resources, conferences. We want them to know they are not alone.”

For more information visit alz.org/altn.