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A Year of Alzheimer's
By Elisa Lewis

(Page 1 of 3)

“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 presentations.

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.

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