In 2009, my uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I wasn't aware at the time that my dad probably had it too. My family, trying to prevent possible unnecessary worry, didn't disclose the diagnosis until months later, when Uncle Budder (UB for short) had a near-fatal side effect from drugs meant to help him.
It was hard seeing him in that hospital bed. He's my dad's identical twin, down to the core. They looked alike, talked alike, were carbon copies down to their DNA. Seeing him unconscious and helpless was like seeing my own daddy on his deathbed.
Thankfully, UB lived to enjoy his retirement.
It was soon thereafter that Mom and Dad sat me down on my couch in my apartment in Tennessee, saying we needed to "talk." Turns out, Dad was suffering from the same ailment.
It began inconspicuously. Every Saturday morning, Dad would balance the checkbook. If it was off even a penny, it made him crazy. Mom began to notice it took him longer and longer to complete this once menial task, and even then, it never came out right. It was the little things, she said. Things other people probably would never notice. Things that only stood out because she had been with this man since they were kids. Things that only a person married to someone for 40-plus years would pick up on.
After the news, I threw myself into fundraising and creating awareness about Alzheimer's. I bought books, read articles. It is a cruel and deadly disease - one that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed; one that tears apart families and breaks people's hearts; and one that is currently growing exponentially.
God's will changed the path that my family thought it was on. Around Christmas of 2013, Dad developed a gut-wrenching cough. Over the next six months, Mom took him to doctors who kept trying to fix him. Cold? No. Upper respiratory infection? No. Bronchitis? No. Pneumonia? No. End-stage lung cancer? 99.9 percent yes.
One night in the hospital, they asked him what month it was. After several long minutes, he said dubiously, "May?" It was June. That broke my heart.
But, he still knew us. Knew our names, knew Sue and I were his daughters, knew Mom/Linda was his wife. We were lucky for that. The day he passed, we said, "I love you." He said, "I love you Susan. I love you Shannon. I love you too." "Too" was Mom.
Dad didn't die of Alzheimer's. But millions of others will. This world's future is at risk unless we can find a way to change the course of this disease.
Please make a donation to help the Alzheimer's Association advance research into prevention, treatments and a cure for this evil disease. For the millions already affected, the Association offers care, education, support and resources in communities nationwide.
Thank you for joining our movement! The end of Alzheimer's disease starts here.
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Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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