December 31, 2015

Alzheimer's & Marty; Their First Anniversary

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

It is now almost one year since my wife, Marty, was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease. The doctor gave us the news as we sat together. She acted as if she understood. She did not. I have told her that she has Alzheimer's disease and she tells me that she understands. She does not. What she does understand is that something is terribly wrong with her memory. Watching her fight to remember simple everyday things such as whether or not she drinks coffee and she has been drinking it her entire life, is heartbreaking.


No one can tell she is ill, except me, of course, and several close friends that know about her condition.  When I take her with me to church and to the stores etc. and we see people we know, I always hear how "wonderful" she looks. Yeah, well the Titanic looked all bright and shiny as it headed out into the Atlantic that cold, April day in 1912. When the iceberg did its dirty deed the Titanic was doomed.  Nothing could have ever stopped her sinking into the cold Atlantic. 


A year after diagnosis Marty has become my new seven year-old existing in an older body. She is very insecure and becomes frightened if I am not nearby. She still tries to maintain her independence as a self-sufficient person even though she cannot remember where to put the forks or cups. As her caregiver my life has become disconnected and very unpredictable because of her needing so much while trying to not need anything. Alzheimer’s is never just the patient’s illness. On the contrary, it latches on to the love of those close to its victim using that love in a sordid attempt to destroy their spirit. Most times that  results in abject failure because the power of love often proves to be much stronger than the evil disease. Sometimes not.

For me, my work as a writer has become a bit scattered.  It has become a fascinating existence where focus has become an evasive shadow and cohesive sentences are written in pieces and then squirreled together at another time.  However, I am blessed. I have been given the gift of faith which allows me to trust the God above. This gift helps me to  realize that this woman is now a special treasure from Him entrusted to my care. I have told Him, “No problem Lord, I have her back and will do my best until whatever is to be will be.”  (But believe me, I do have my "knee-buckling" moments.)

 Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease and about 200,000 of those folks are under the age of 65. It is the only disease among the top ten that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. The disease kills more people every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 16 million people will have this disease. Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's every 67 seconds. They have estimated that by 2050 it will be every 33 seconds. This is an epidemic growing before our eyes. It is also becoming a nightmare for more and more moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and society as a whole.

Imagine that all around the country there are people like Marty having their brains slowly erased by an invisible demon inside their heads. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh; back and forth, back and forth, the tiny eraser keeps moving--back and forth, back and forth. Slowly but methodically the demon goes about its work 24/7. After a while, the person under attack does not even remember how to go to the bathroom. And then, after a time, the eraser stops. It stops when the disease it is part of finally erases the person's life.

That is the course of the relentless, unstoppable, illness known as Alzheimer's Disease. It is at work at this very moment in different minds all over the world. Somehow, someway we will have to stop it. We will need God's help because this war cannot be won without Him.


                                       copyright©Larry Peterson 2015