Living with Alzheimer's: 5 years
To understand my reactions to Alzheimer's disease (AD), you need to know some things about my history. Once a famous TV interviewer asked me why I wasn't more miserable. I told him that AD is not nearly as scary as it was when I was four years old with bombs falling around my father's farm near Cambridge, England, and us all sleeping in a Morrison shelter. The interview was scrapped because it didn't match the reporter's vision of AD.
|A Morrison shelter||Little Jennifer|
After college, I spent four years in Nigeria teaching at the University of Ibadan. I had the courage to venture into an unfamiliar world and thrive there then, as I do now. In Africa, I married an American and moved to the United States. Soon I found myself a single parent with two children, which spurred me on to a life of health advocacy.
I was diagnosed April 1, 2002. And if I had been more aware of symptoms and of the possibility of early-onset AD, I could have been diagnosed years earlier. It should be no surprise that my reaction to AD is advocacy to improve awareness, to help my fellow travelers be active together, and to get research and programs properly funded.
I attend a tremendous gathering of early-onset fellow travelers convened by the Rush Medical Alzheimer's Research Center in Chicago. I find that being active with fellow travelers is greatly life enriching. There are several interactive Web sites where fellow travelers are enriching each other's lives. I'd love to talk more to my fellow travelers, especially those new to the AD adventure.
I spend a few hours every morning transcribing my letters to my mother and family. I've done most of my U.S. years and my Oxford, England years, and now I'm doing the Nigeria years. The result will be well over 2,000 pages.
I then head for the Chicago Art Institute and similar places, walking at least 2 miles each day. In the afternoons I do watercolor painting, and after supper, I read newspapers and poetry and listen to music.
Other than advocacy, the only role AD plays in my daily routine is that I'd probably be working rather than enjoying. I just don't think about AD while I'm enjoying life.
The photo below – it's me with my cousin Brenda having a jolly time at the Art Institute last summer. We had not seen each other since 1949 when her family went to Australia. You can tell that we were – and still are – the mischievous cousins.