Sunday, April 29, 2012

What do you do in your spare time? I apparently play flag football.

A week ago, I walked into a bar and ordered an absolut on the rocks with olives. The bartender gave me a look that said: “Are you serious?” but he nonetheless made my drink, and I suffered through sipping the entire thing. It wasn't my drink, though. April 21st would have been my mom’s 61st birthday, but in October of this past year, she passed away after battling early-onset Alzheimer’s for 10 years.  By her drink alone, I’m sure you can tell she was pretty awesome (I mean, I had to chase the vodka with a margarita, but my mom was apparently known for doing shots with my dad’s family at weddings…).

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 50. A year later, when I was 16, my mom asked me what my name was, and a few years later, she just barely made it to my high school graduation—refusing to get dressed in the clothes my dad had laid out for her, yelling that they were “children’s clothes!” As a family, we look back on memories like this and try to laugh a little—remember how mom wouldn’t let us pick out clothes for her, because she thought we were trying to trick her and get her to wear children’s clothes? The memories are bizarre and crazy…and they highlight how Alzheimer’s is anything but a pretty disease. There is no cure, there are no odds to fight against, because even with the best treatment, there is no remission.

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I knew my odds. I knew the treatment plan—I was told: “This is your best chance; this is what has worked before.” When my mom was diagnosed with early–onset Alzheimer’s, and my dad asked, “What is the course of treatment?” The doctors said: “You just live each day the best you can.” There was no treatment; they tried medicine to slow it down, but in less than 3 years, she went from being an amazing, active mom, wife, and friend to someone who was fully dependent on others for her care. By being here tonight, donating and supporting the Alzheimer’s Association, you are hopefully leading to a change for others' diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There was no history of Alzheimer's in our family--we didn't know it was coming, and we couldn't do anything once it arrived. My brother and I know in the future it's possible we could hear the same diagnosis my mom did. However, we've committed to fighting against the same treatment plan she had by donating and supporting the Alzheimer's Association. Hopefully we'll be knocking back Absolut in 40 years together with all our friends, still able to remember my mom the way we do now.

I said this tonight at a fundraiser and was all fumbly and bumbly, two non-real words, but that aptly describe my fear of public speaking. Please feel free to donate and share this post with anyone and everyone!

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Jessica said...

Hi! Found your blog today! I am your newest follower:) Stop by and visit me...

Danielle said...

Thanks for posting this. I was looking up info on the Erin Condren lesson plan book, but I found this post first. We just found out my mom has terminal cancer. Your post gives me hope that somehow, no matter how awful and difficult, I will get through this

Alex said...

Danielle, glad the post helped, even a little bit! You will get through it! Hang in there!!