Sunday Scribblings (on Monday): Scary

“When I look out there it kind of seems like I’m in the suburbs,” my uncle said, peering out the front door of the home he’s lived in since 1953.   “Really, though, I don’t know where this is…”

He turned and shuffled back to his bedroom, crawling into the bed where he spends most of the days.  He rarely gets dressed now, a man who once shopped only at Brooks Brothers, buying three or four suits at a time to wear to work, and countless pinstriped shirts and khaki’s for “everyday” around the house.  My aunt, who once complained that he felt the need to use a clean towel for each of the two or three showers he often took per day, now nags him somewhat relentlessly until she manages to get him into the shower once or twice a week.

When my mother in law died last September, another victim of Alzheimer’s Disease, I had watched her decline for about eight years.  And now, I’m watching my uncle follow the exact same pattern.  

Can I say how much I despise this disease?  How angry it makes me that a person’s entire life is erased from their memory, that they can no longer recall their children, their home, their favorite color or song, can’t crave the taste of chocolate or coffee, can’t sing a tune or swing a golf club, write a check or a grocery list.  I want to stomp on Alzheimer’s Disease, I want to tear it into shreds and toss it into the ocean.  I want it eradicated from the face of the earth.

Most of all, I want it to leave my family the hell alone.

Am I scared of this disease? You bet, I’m scared.  Terrified would be more like it.  I have to remind myself not to get too smug, that just because no one in my direct blood line has it – not my parents or grandparents, nor any of their brothers or sisters – that doesn’t mean I’m immune.  It could strike me randomly, like a wayward bomb from some crazy fighter pilot in the sky.

And I’m petrified for my husband, who has developed every other health condition his mother had, right down to benign cysts on their right kidneys and identical parathyroid tumors on the same gland (which they both had surgically removed on the same day back in 2004).   Add to that the plethora of other risk factors he has – a long history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol,  recently diagnosed pre-diabetes, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle – and I feel as if I might as well put him on the waiting list at Chestnut Village.  Does he listen to my warnings, or those of the myriad health professionals out there?

What do you think?  If he inherited anything at all  from his father, it was stubbornness.

But lately I’m feeling just as angry as I am fearful.  Where did this scourge of a disease come from, anyway?  Why all of a sudden are so many millions of people living their last years of life being stripped of their memory and intellect?  Is is something in the water? In food? In microwaves or cell phones? 

Somebody just tell me, so I can do something about it.

For of course, there’s the biggest fear of all.  This horrible disease causes it’s victims to lose complete control over their lives.  And for a control freak like me, what could be more fearsome?  A fate worse than death, indeed.

So yes, I’m scared.  But I’m also “stomp my foot” mad, and I don’t want to take this anymore. 

Let’s get to work on stem cell research.  Let’s support the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association, and other organizations who are looking for cures.

Let’s insure that our children and grandchildren can forget all about Alzheimer’s Disease, and needn’t be afraid of it at all.

for Sunday Scribblings

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8 thoughts on “Sunday Scribblings (on Monday): Scary

  1. Here are some things that may help, based on what Apple’s told me and what we’ve learned together via her family and through cultural exposure.

    – Yellow curry (curcumin) has been shown, in recent studies, to possibly ward off Alzheimer’s. Yellow curry is hugely popular in India, where the rate of Alzheimer’s disease is really low.

    – Rice water, or rice bran oil, is also possibly beneficial. I’m taking supplements of this stuff now (it comes in capsule form). It lowers bad cholesterol too.

    – Fish oil (either derived from eating fish or through supplements) with DHA may fight development of the disease.

    – Ginkgo biloba extract increases blood flow to the brain and improves memory.

    – Papa always bought into the idea that aluminum in products like deodorant was a contributing factor, as was microwaving your food with plastic wrap still on top of it. Supposedly, more recent research has somewhat discredited that hypothesis. Still, we long ago stopped using deodorant sticks containing aluminum and now use this natural rock crystal stuff instead. We also use a bowl-like “food lid” when reheating stuff instead of leaving the wrapping on it.

    As for the effect of environmental factors — exposure to wireless signals, cell phones, etc. — nobody really knows. I’d be inclined to put more stock in the negative effects of eating habits and the lack of particular nutrients, myself. That, plus the other risk factors you mentioned in your post.

  2. I only know I agree with you as to how scary it is. My mother’s dementia wasn’t Alzheimers, but it may as well have been in its eventual effects on her. I suppose people are living longer now, and that’s part of the reason why it’s so prevalent

  3. My father died with Alzheimer’s, so I, like you, am scared…and mad. And praying for a cure.
    Have you read, “Still Alice”? A phenomenal book about a woman with early-onset alzheimers. Brilliantly written….terrifying….I cried through most of it.

  4. We must find a cure. This is the most horrible disease. I watched Dad fight for sanity in the nursing home for awhile, but he came back to us when we brought him home. Of course, it was not Alzheimer’s Disease, but it gave me a small taste of what families go through. I, too, wonder about the cause. Where did this come from? Is it in the environment, food, water, or are cell phones contributors? All questions that need answers. Thoughtful post, Becca.

  5. Becca, I’ve been meaning to respond to this all week – life on this end is very, very scattered. D has similar genetic issues to your husband. He was given various tests at age 50 and they’re tracking him. If it’s caught early there are many things that can help. For your husband and/or you, check to see if you can have a similar work up at U of M.

  6. Boy, do I understand the fear. I’ve been fortunate — it doesn’t appear that Alzheimer’s runs in my family, but with the cancer and the lung issues, I have my own demons when it comes to genetics and it scares the heck out of me.

    Where DID Alzheimer’s come from? Was the sort of “loony” aunt or uncle we might read about in novels written 40 or 50 years ago have it? Did it not have a name? Or is it because everyday we are doing weird things to our bodies, breathing gunk, eating junk, smelling who knows what? I don’t know, but I’m with you — we have to do more with research. We just must.

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