I knew something was wrong when my ability to read slowed drastically. The final straw was when I couldn't memorize a brief anecdote from Reader's Digest. What should have been memorized in six minutes took me 45 minutes spread over three days.
Being the fourth generation in my family to experience such problems, I recognized the likelihood of Alzheimer Disease. With a heavy heart, I decided to leave the teaching profession that I loved. However, I was still young, bright and not afraid to work hard so my search to find a solution continued. My desire was to help myself and others who walk this path.
People often forget that Alzheimer Disease is like any other - it has a beginning and an end. In this day and age it could take years or even decades for my illness to advance to late stage. Early stage medication has helped many of us to extend this part of our journey. Add to that a positive attitude and an active lifestyle and there's hope for us yet.
TAKING AWAY THE FEAR
I am delighted to see that the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia (ASBC) offers support groups throughout the province for people in the early stage of this disease. These groups take away the fear of the unknown and offer a nurturing environment, information and a fun sense of belonging.
These people understand me like nobody else can. We say, "Why hide this problem, we have done nothing to be ashamed of."
Like so many others, my choice has been to go on living. My next question was, "What to do?"
Reading seemed like a good start. I was surprised to read an article suggesting that I learn a foreign language. Enthusiasm has always been a strong point with me so out I went to purchase books and tapes on my new language of choice. Hello! I can't learn this stuff. Once I turn the page it's impossible for me to remember what was reviewed on the last page. Suffice it to say I failed miserably; undaunted, I carried on.
"Perhaps I could learn to sing," I thought. Our church of 100 people often gathered a small choir for the Christmas musical but my need was greater. I choose the largest church in the city, bringing both my enthusiasm and my lack of talent.
The church's 90-member-strong choir sang like angels. Now, two years later, my spirit soars as I join with talented singers, praising the Lord. I haven't become a great singer but have allowed myself the pleasure of enjoying a new pastime.
A CHANGING MELODY
Life is a changing melody for me these days. I find it necessary to dwell on what I am still able to do, rather than focus on what I have lost. I work hard to enjoy my somewhat limited abilities and take pleasure in my accomplishments.
For instance, I wrote a play about early-stage Alzheimer Disease and often speak at ASBC conferences. My next project will be to write a book about this portion of my life. Can I do it? Who knows unless I try.