In 1999, recently arrived in Los Angeles from her little town of Wolfeboro New Hampshire, my mom was diagnosed during the first visit with her new doctor with dementia. Where a diagnosis of cancer used to be feared by many as an automatic death sentence, today many people, including my partner Sally are “cancer survivors”. But today for many, the most fearful diagnosis is one of “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia”. To date I have not encountered anyone introducing themselves as an “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia survivor”. How can a person (or their loved ones) come to grips with “losing their mind”? What is more precious and irreplaceable to us than our memories and our personality?
A few years after my dad’s death in 1984, my mom was diagnosed with an atrial fibrillation, which was causing her heart to not pump blood properly. What had provoked this condition was never confirmed, but her doctor suspected that it had been some sort of virus that had attacked and damaged the muscles of, and maybe physically reflecting perhaps the metaphoric “breaking” of, her heart, after a lifetime struggle with self esteem, lacking the love of her own mother, and never finding the kind of loving relationship with a man that she continued to long for. Continue reading →