Dear Alzheimer’s, I understand you’ve met my Nother. She’s my step-mother, actually. But step-mother sounds so wicked, and she’s anything but that. She’s my other mother, another mother, she’s my Nother. Quite honestly, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a better person. I’m not ashamed to brag on her, but she’s beautiful, intelligent, nurturing and, in my eyes, could absolutely do it all. So, Alzheimer’s disease, you understand when I say, “You suck.”
Sure, every cloud has a silver lining. Now, as her memory begins to dim, she thinks all my stories are really funny even if I tell the same one over and over. Except, really, she thought I was terrific even before this, and I if I told the same story over and over, she didn’t care and still thought I was pretty funny. So I think we can’t count that. Which leaves nothing, actually. There is no silver lining to having Alzheimer’s.
As unspeakably awful as a cancer diagnosis can be, you at least have a chance to fight it with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. People rally around you, have benefits to help out and talk about how brave you are. Even if you don’t win. People hesitate to rally around Alzheimer’s, because it’s awkward and uncomfortable. What do you say to the person who may or may not be able to put you in context or be able to decipher exactly what the relationship and history is between you?
Alzheimer’s creeps in like an insidious fog and takes away the very things that make you who you are: your past, then your future and eventually even your present. Left behind is a person who looks like who you were, but isn’t. A mother, a wife, a mentor, a friend are taken, stolen away piece by piece. It’s as if every day she takes one step further away to a place where we can’t go or bring her back from.
So, Alzheimer’s, I’d tell you to go pick on someone your own size, except I wouldn’t wish you on my worst enemy. Obviously, I can’t stop you. The families who are affected can’t stop you. And, at this point, doctors can’t stop you, either. But know that we won’t forget the fight against brain disease and mental illness, no matter how daunting and difficult it is. It doesn’t get much worse than Alzheimer’s but hopefully soon, it will get better.