As a wife and mother of two, Kathy Murray depended on her ability to keep multiple balls in the air. This multi-tasker held a demanding job as a senior vice president at a bank, traveling extensively and clocking 60-to 75-hour work weeks. Life was busy and fulfilling.
But in 1989, she began to notice a change. She found it difficult to retain new information and details, had trouble concentrating and could not do simple math.
Kathy’s family, colleagues and even her physician attributed her symptoms to excessive travel and work-related stress.
“People said, ’You’re a young mother with two active teenage boys. You travel across the country, you maintain two offices — what do you expect?’ Kathy reflects. "But I knew how I was wired. I wasn’t the kind of person to do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking was one of my strengths – I thrived on it.”
Searching for answers
Over the years Kathy was tested for everything from low B-12 levels, thyroid problems and Lyme disease to depression and seizure disorder. “I didn’t share much with my kids during all those years–the symptoms weren’t severe enough to prevent me from following my daily routines. But it was very frustrating.”
She took early retirement from the bank in 2005. Her symptoms continued to worsen, prompting her to see a neurologist for a complete evaluation in 2008. She was given the diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s in March 2009.
“I drove around for about an hour before I called my husband. When I told him, there was dead silence on the phone. We told our sons, who were both adults at that point, later that evening. One hugged me and cried and said he was numb and speechless; the other said he didn’t believe it.”
Kathy received little information about the disease from her neurologist, so she began doing her own research. She discovered the Alzheimer’s Association online resources, and called the free 24/7 helpline for information. She connected with her local chapter and began her involvement as an Alzheimer’s advocate.
Kathy hopes her position as an Early-Stage Advisor will inspire others to live life to the fullest. “I get frustrated when I see ads for Alzheimer’s medications that show a much older person, with someone my age administrating the medications. I sometimes believe our politicians and others see Alzheimer’s as the disease of very old people who have already lived their best years.”
Although her diagnosis brings a special poignancy to Mother’s Day, Kathy remains committed to her motto: Life is good. "Being a mother is about caring relationships that evolve into mutual respect, friendship and more love then a heart can hold. It was not always a smooth journey and each day was faced with uncertainty. But from the moment I gave birth to my sons and first held them in my arms, it’s been worth every tear and heartache. The joys have outweighed all the trials.
“An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is similar – it’s not always a smooth journey. I can only hope that it’s one my family can endure as they face each day with uncertainty. I pray that ultimately the joys will outweigh all the trials. For me, it’s a matter of relishing every minute together.”