Full time carer Taylor Graham is determined to focus on the funny side of life – despite knowing that he is at 50/50 risk of having inherited the faulty gene that causes Huntington’s disease.
The 23-year-old has put his college ambitions on hold to look after his dad Sean who is in the early stages of the hereditary disease.
But now, with the full backing of Sean and mum Tracey, Taylor is pursuing his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.
And he’s all set to put on his first headline show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August to raise funds for Scottish Huntington’s Association.
“My plans changed with Dad’s diagnosis,” said Taylor, from Edinburgh.
“His illness has been an adjustment for us all because he isn’t able to manage on his own during the day. One of the most obvious changes is that Dad’s short term memory isn’t good so I help with the cooking and cleaning and make sure everything is OK for him. It means Mum is able to continue working, knowing Dad has the support he needs at home during the day.”
Taylor was 18 when his parents explained that Sean had tested positive for the faulty gene that causes Huntington’s disease. Until then Taylor knew very little about the disease or how it could affect his dad’s mental, physical and cognitive health. It was also when he discovered he is at 50/50 risk of having inherited the faulty gene that causes the disease.
The family is supported by a Scottish Huntington’s Association HD Specialist who is in touch regularly with Sean and Tracey, and the charity’s Financial Wellbeing Service stepped in when Sean had to give up his job at a local university.
Taylor also has a Scottish Huntington’s Association Specialist Youth Advisor to talk to about the challenges he faces at home, what to expect as his dad’s health changes, and his own genetic risk.
“Scottish Huntington’s Association has been really great for us as a family. Pete, my Specialist Youth Advisor, even helped me when I was starting out by getting me a spot at a charity comedy gig,” said Taylor.
“I started doing stand-up after becoming Dad’s carer. I wanted to do something for myself so I applied for an open mic spot at The Stand in Edinburgh and went on the following month. I thought my body was going to shut down but once I got on stage I became a different person. The confidence suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
“I try to do around three slots at venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow each month. It’s a great release from any worries or pressures and I enjoy hearing people laugh at my stories.
“Putting on my own show at The Fringe will be amazing and I really want to raise funds for Scottish Huntington’s Association as a thank you for all the support we’ve had. I’ve a couple of other acts lined up who will join me so looks like it’s all systems go!”