Sometimes we’ll hear about it. About how someone’s Grandma can’t remember their name. Or about how someone else’s Grandpa can’t seem to remember a recent fishing trip. But we don’t think about it. I know I didn't. I didn't think it was that important. I didn’t think that Alzheimer’s was an important disease, like cancer. But it’s just as important, if not more. My Nana, who was an avid baker and all together lovely person, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago, and she hasn't been the same since. At first it wasn't so bad, she’d ask the same question maybe two or three times, or forget what she was saying. Then it slowly got worse. She’d forget to wear clean clothes, and couldn't remember where she put things. Sometimes she’d even forget where she lived. About two years ago her symptoms got even worse, she wouldn't go into the kitchen that she loved so much, and she’d forget who some people were. This last summer was just terrible for her and everyone around her. She forgot things about herself, and she always asked for her parents. She couldn't go to the bathroom alone because she’d forget to flush or wash her hands. She’d hide things and then cry when she couldn't find them. I mean, she was still the sweet lovely person she always was, but she could no longer hold conversations, or be left alone. This year she is in the last stage of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s. She has to have two people taking care of her at all times. She sleeps on a hospital bed in her own home, because she can’t climb onto her bed. She’s either in that bed or in her wheel chair. I remember her doing so much. She baked for her church, and grew vegetables in her backyard, and now she doesn't even leave her house. This disease, which is the 6th leading cause of death in America due to the loss in motor skills and brain activity, has changed her forever. This disease that ruins so many lives, has started to ruin mine. I received the news this morning that this Christmas will be my Nana’s last. She will not live see next Christmas. So whenever I hear someone say Alzheimer’s isn’t an important disease, and that instead of finding its cure we should find a cure for cancer, it hurts. Because Alzheimer’s is a disease where you lose every piece of who you are painstakingly slow. It has no chemotherapy that might send its victim into remission. No. You just have to watch as they slowly forget who, you are. You have to watch as they forget who, they are. Alzheimer’s is a disease that takes away our Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, but not just them it also affects younger people, some as young as forty. In all it affects 5.4 million people in America, and it has more deaths in recent years than any cancer. So tell me, why is cancer so much more important? Why should Alzheimer’s be over looked? In my honest opinion, Alzheimer’s disease is more important than cancer. I’m not saying that because, my Nana has been affected by it, but because these people who are forgetting these things about their lives and ours, have so much to teach us. And we have so much to learn from them about wars, the evils of racism, baking, and most of all love. But we can’t learn from them if they’ve forgotten. And if they’ve forgotten then we’ve forgotten, and it’s lost forever. It may be in textbooks, and non-fictions, but it’s not the same. We feel no passion for the past as we do when we learn it from these important individuals. This disease affects so many, and it would mean the world to me if people who aren't directly affected by would learn about it. Would teach themselves that this disease is serious. Because it is. Because you never know when it might be too late to learn about it. You never know when it will strike your family. I didn't. But I wish I did. I wish I’d learned something about it. I wish I’d known what to say or what to do, so that I’m not always so worried about if something I say will set her off because she doesn't remember it. Because all that worrying, it stops me from actually enjoying my precious few days with her. And I wouldn't want that for any of you. Not a single one of you.
Alzheimer's: The Forgotten Disease
December 25, 2012