After baths, the folks shuffled into the living room in their pajamas. Those who didn’t claim a recliner scooted close together on the couch…one sat cross-legged on the floor. Vanna was putting up the first puzzle, and the wheel started clicking, spinning around and searching for a place to land. It was time for Wheel of Fortune!
THE FIRST BATTLE
Looking around the room, I thought about how these folks came from many walks of life. They were teachers, mailmen, writers, engineers, war veterans, store clerks, oilmen and more. But everyone was on the same team now, fighting the same battle. Like a game of tug-of-war, everyone grabbed a place at the rope, dug in their heels, and pulled with all their strength…even as blisters insisted on making the competition more painful. These thoughts settled in my mind as I watched the people we had grown to love at the memory care home.
Years earlier, after Mom and Dad were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was asked several times…“Which do you think is worse…Alzheimer’s or cancer?” While most understand what cancer is, I had learned that many don’t have an accurate perception of Alzheimer’s. Most don’t realize there is physical pain with this disease also…and often life ends as the brain can no longer tell the throat to swallow, the eyes to blink, or the lungs to breathe. It is so much more than getting lost, forgetting names or losing keys.
But…I had no experience with cancer, so I didn’t know how to answer.
THE SECOND BATTLE
A few days ago, at MD Anderson, I looked around at the people sitting in the waiting room with me. One was wrapped in a warm blanket and softly snoring, another was on the phone, one was reading, two were playing cards. One pushed his child in a wheelchair, and another pulled her IV pole along with her. Although many heads in the room had been left bare, only a few wore hats.
We live in different states and even some different countries. We don’t all speak the same language, but we compare stories, discuss diagnoses, and share snacks. Everyone is dressed comfortably, and no one tries to impress anyone else. We’re all on the same team now…grabbing our place at the rope and digging in to beat the enemy. Our hands burn against the rope, and our bodies fight fatigue.
I remember the question…which is worse…Alzheimer’s or cancer? Now that I have experience with both diseases, I realize just how different the two are, but what is most interesting to me is how they are the same. Both are unwelcome intruders, but there are brave people from all walks of life, bound together – pulling the same rope, muddy shoes, bloody blisters and all – fighting side by side against them…and it’s a blessing to witness. I’m thankful…after all.
I still can’t answer the question, but I don’t think it really matters.
Blessed & Thankful, Tracie
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31
For several years, my heart’s desire was to write the true story of my parents’ journey through Alz…a sweet and tender story about love and commitment. You may find it by clicking this link to Amazon:
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