A couple of my friends were over the other day and because we are morbid we were talking about ways to die. And one of them said, "I'd rather have Alzheimer's than cancer. At least I wouldn't know I had it."
And that makes me crazy. People say that all the time. There's that old joke, "I might have Alzheimer's but at least I don't have Alzheimer's." It's not true. My dad KNEW. He didn't know the word "Alzheimer's" (he seemed to understand it as if it was a brain tumor--he'd say "this thing in my head, it's killing me") but he knew he wasn't right anymore. After he died my mom found a note he'd written, a heartbreaking list titled "things I can't do anymore." Maybe at the very end, when he was burning up from MRSA or VRSA (whichever one he had) and pretty much brain dead, he didn't know, but then again, he didn't know anything at that point.
I argued with my friend for 2 reasons. One is that, unless you have a brain tumor, you're pretty much YOU until the end with cancer. You're in terrible physical pain, true, but people can talk to you and you know who they are and everyone can say a proper goodbye. Not the long drawn out goodbye that's never officially said with dementia. I have no idea where along the line my dad forgot who I was, but I know it happened. I became a person who visited him and helped him out, someone he liked, but he had no connection to me. My mom was the awful bitch who stole his money and kept him prisoner and drove him to places so "they" could torture him. As opposed to my grandpa, who died of cancer 25 years ago this summer, who knew everyone and everything up to right before he passed on. Reason two is a huge one: you can get better from cancer. I know more than one person who is walking around today who had cancer in the past. My high school friend, when she was finally listened to and diagnosed, was stage 4 ovarian cancer. They put her in hospice to die. She gave away her cats, her car, everything she owned. 16 weeks later, the doctors said, "You aren't going to die after all. Go home." Bewildered, she said, "I have no home anymore, I gave away everything, you told me I was gonna die." And she had to go live with her parents again. That was 10 years ago and she's still walking around and is just fine. There are no Alzheimer's survivors, there are no dementia survivors. It's an absolute 100% death sentence. You are more likely to get eaten by a great white and win Powerball on the same day than you are going to recover from Alzheimer's and be 100% fine.
My father's 1253-day journey through Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and my feelings about it. Now my aunt appears to have dementia, so this is her chronicle as well. All material is copyrighted by Gevera Bert Piedmont (except where noted and where quoted from other sources); please do not repost without permission.
"The cost of Alzheimer's? Everything you ever owned, everything you ever thought you would get, and things you never even thought about."
"It's a long, slow slide into oblivion, with no brakes."
"If this was a paper journal, the ink would be running with tears."
"Imagine a really beautiful, perfect statue, left out in the wind and rain for centuries, to be worn away, until it’s only retained the shape of a person, not any of the individuality. That’s what Alzheimer’s did to my father. It wore him away, all the sharp edges and crisp points that made him Bob, who loved his family and his pets and his raspberry bushes, and turned him into a fearful person with a vague and confused stare."
"It's a nasty disease, surrounded by shadows and small, largely unseen tragedies."--Terry Pratchett
This is a reminder that Alzheimer's disease affects real people, real families. My dad wasn't a monster, just a man whose brain was slowly eaten by a terrible disease.