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Brian Stanley and Penny Jones - Northern B.C. Honourees

2024 IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's

A poet, coach, wrestler, lacrosse player, teacher, father and grandfather, Brian Stanley was beginning to look forward to the next chapter of his life with his spouse Penny Jones. With four now adult children, the couple had plans to begin travelling and spending more quality time together. However, in 2021 Penny began noticing changes to the man she had spent over two decades with.

“It was becoming quite a pattern to others that I couldn’t seem to remember certain everyday things in the house,” Brian says. “What light switch hits where and which closet has what in it? And we’d been living in this house for nearly 20 years. Penny was quite vocal about her concerns, but I didn’t think it was an issue at all.”

It wasn’t until Brian went to renew his first aid certificate, something he and Penny have done regularly for the past three decades, that he started to become worried.

“We laugh because every other year we’ve said, ‘Let’s take the test before the course!’ And this year I just couldn’t do the test. I recognized the words, but the knowledge was gone.”

After booking an appointment with their family doctor, Brian says the process of tests and assessments moved quickly, with the diagnosis of young onset dementia delivered in March of 2022. Brian was in his mid-50s.

“That was a kick in the you know what’s,” Brian says, reminiscing on the diagnosis. “It was very disappointing, very upsetting, all the plans…”

“You have to grieve because if you don’t, you get stuck in it,” Penny adds. “We allow a pity party, but with a time limit on it. So, we pity partied greatly when Brian was first diagnosed. You have to embrace the suck. You have to get on with it.”

After grieving, Brian decided to continue living life to the fullest by embarking on a lifelong dream: to wrestle competitively in Las Vegas. He trained for six hours a day, coached by his daughter, whom he coached throughout her high school wrestling career. In April of 2023, just over a year after his diagnosis, he made that bucket list item come true.

When he returned home, Brian ran two 5-kilometre races and now has the goal in mind of completing a triathlon in 2024 

Along their dementia journey, Penny and Brian have been surrounded by a strong network that includes family, friends, friends that feel like family, connections made at the gymand the community at large. 

“I’m not alone,” Brian says. “And that’s probably the most comforting thing about this. I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say I’m one of the luckiest people there’s ever been.”

That feeling of community and support is something Penny says is crucial throughout the dementia journey.

“When Brian was first diagnosed, I phoned the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s First Link®Dementia Helpline and I don’t know what it was, I just lost control,” she says.“I’m not generally a crier. Every time I phone them, I cry. And I think it’s just because there’s a safe person that gets it.”

Building a support system and being flexible are two of the many pieces of advice Brian and Penny have for families starting their journey with a dementia diagnosis. They have also prioritized making memories and living every day to the fullest.

“You’re not guaranteed anything,” Brian says. “It’s such an uncertain progression and an uneven progression, you just don’t know. If you’re diagnosed or newly diagnosed, don’t quit. Don’t quit. Cherish everything.”

Join Brian & Penny on Sunday, May 26 for the Northern B.C. IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's.