More about Jo
I’m a 52-year-old former newspaper and BBC local radio journalist. Writing and communication has always been a passion.
Inspired by the beautiful scenery of my home county of Devon, I’ve loved exploring it and sharing it with others throughout my life – from a 100-mile walk for a school project as a 15-year-old to organising the first Women Can Marathon in my home village of Tipton St John in May 2017.
I’ve lived in Tipton for 30 years, with my husband John, and always two dogs – who are currently 12-year-old crotchety terrier Archie and three-year-old crazy lurcher Freddie.
The scenery around me and the natural world inspires everything I do.
For causes I feel strongly about, I use it to raise awareness and funding, prompting a series of personal challenges over the years and organising many different community events.
Further background to my interest in dementia
My maternal grandmother, who we lived with, began to suffer from dementia when I was nine. In a short time she went from being independent and capable, to becoming so unwell she needed full-time care. She died when I was 15.
The effect on her, and the limited understanding and type of support available, had a big impact. My other grandmother also suffered from dementia in later life.
John’s mother had Alzheimer’s, also an elderly friend, who I helped care for. And the husband of a very close friend developed PCA (Posterior Cortical Atrophy) in his mid-50s.
In November 2011, my Dad, Bernard, was diagnosed with vascular dementia at the age of 70. He’d always been a huge part of my various challenges, inspiring me to push myself and helping in whatever practical way he could.
I helped my mum care for him before he went into a nursing home Barton Place, Exeter, in October 2014. He died in April 2015.
My husband John suffered a stroke in March 2013, from which he has been permanently affected.
He was referred to the Exeter Memory Clinic for assessment in June 2017.
He has been diagnosed with cognitive impairment, risk of various dementias and is undergoing further tests.
Previous fundraising for BRACE
I’d already run 10 marathons, many for charities, when in 2012 I decided to enter the London Marathon, securing a place for the dementia research charity BRACE.
With my father’s diagnosis and declining health, I embarked on a challenge to reach 50 marathons at age 50.
I completed in May 2015, running the Edinburgh Marathon three days after my 50th birthday, sadly eight weeks after my dad died.
I wrote a weekly blog about the challenge “Obsessive Compulsive Running” at www.joearlam.wordpress.com and raised £6,500.
Other previous self-organised fundraising linked to my career as a journalist
1998: WMN Walk for Air and Sea, 630 miles around the South West Coast Path for the Devon and Cornwall Air Ambulances and the RNLI.
The walk completed over six weeks, with three different dogs, raised £3,200, and was featured in a weekly double-page spread in the Western Morning News.
2003: A 460-mile walk over four weeks around the Devon border for the BBC Radio Devon Chestnut Appeal.
The walk with Labrador dog Bella, featured daily broadcasts on progress, and raised £17,000 for prostate cancer.
2010: Around Devon in Eight Days Eight Ways, an eight-day continuous challenge using different forms of transport, foot, cycle, canoe etc. for the Devon Air Ambulance, linking their shops around the county, raising over £1,000, also with daily broadcasts.
My mum Rosemary was always the main supporter of any challenge or project I’ve undertaken, and always there to help practically, including with John in recent years.
She died suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2017 at the age of 76.
Her death leaves a big hole, which I’m determined to fill by continuing to keep doing what I believe in, which I know she would have wanted.