Share This Article
A Year of Alzheimer's
“It’s a Puh.. Puh… Puh… word.” I desperately
explained to my husband. He turned his head away from me and walked
into the other room. I stood there alone, bereft, defeated, feeling
the tears burn through my embarrassment and frustration.
It wasn’t the first time. This had become more
and more prevalent in our lives. Being unable to communicate was
common lately; a turn in my life that was unexpected and completely
foreign. It changed everything. And it was getting worse. I was so
frightened I was becoming paralyzed, isolated, and ashamed.
The last few years of my life had been full of
exciting life altering events - some better than others. There were
highlights and low times. For five years, after having had a long
career as a healthcare administrator, I had been operating my own
business as a geriatric care manager. As with any new business it
would take time to grow, which gave me the opportunity to write a
book for a healthcare publisher, develop a national speaking career
and teach online. I was doing only the things that I loved. I was
living everyone’s dream.
In October, three years into this new life, I
was told I had breast cancer. I froze. My adored husband stood by me
every step of the way and warmed me so I could approach this as I
had everything else in my life; proactively. He rubbed my feet as I
was prepared to have the cancer cut from my body. I was prescribed
an antidepressant and tamoxifen, the drug commonly given to breast
cancer patients. My children and grandson came from both coasts to
visit that holiday season. The days were full of business and
overseeing the building of our new home in the mountains, a longtime
dream of mine. I didn’t miss a day of radiation after the surgery. I
was cancer free and went on with life, a bit giddy even.
But as I looked back at some things that had
happened through the 6 weeks of radiation I came to realize that I
hadn’t been as ‘together’ as I thought during that time. I had shown
up for appointments a week early and missed others completely.
Probably normal for anyone going through cancer treatment, I went
through it like a zombie.
I had always been a visionary person, able to
see an entire scenario or theory in my mind. Over the next few
months I ‘saw’ more than usual, and had difficulty communicating my
visions to others. Sometimes I’d start a story in the middle so
others couldn’t follow me. As I held my breath I’d search for a word
or a phrase, then I’d sigh and shake my head. I was embarrassing
myself. So I withdrew. I just decided not to talk as it wasn’t
worth the cognitive and emotional effort. I also stopped pursuing
During this time, I heard about a famous author
whose work declined over the period of her life. After an analysis
of the words used early in her writing and those used when she was
aged, the professionals surmised that she had acquired Alzheimer’s
Disease. Hearing this made me aware that I had been struggling to
write my weekly columns and the live chat sessions with my online
students. I saw the pictures in my mind of what I wanted to write,
but it wouldn’t come out my fingers at the keyboard. It felt like I
was using baby words and that I’d had a better vocabulary in high
school than now. I had always been thought of as articulate and no
longer was. I became more afraid.