Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Heal, But Not Forget

I believe there is a fine line between healing after the loss of a loved one, but also not forgetting the struggle and pain that your loved one endured.  I never want to forget what my Dad (and my family) went through during the last 4 years of his life.  Because to me, forgetting is the equivalent of thinking that it's not important anymore.  But, on the other hand, it's also imperative and healthy to move on with life and let go of the pain in your heart.

Most of the time I don't feel the pain anymore.  Yesterday I did.  There's an article circulating on every social media website,, you name it, the article is there.  It's about a 29 year old woman who is choosing to die on her own terms.  She has terminal, aggressive brain cancer. (I'm not doing her story justice, you must read it).  She moved to Oregon where she was able to have a prescription for a drug that will help her die when the time comes.  She talks about the importance of quality of life, living life, not being in pain, talking with loved ones and spending time with them.  She does not have Alzheimer's but the nature of her disease is similar because her brain will go first and then her body will hang on a little longer.  See the parallels to my Dad's story?

This is obviously a sensitive subject and I am not here to talk about 'assisted suicide'.  I'm simply pointing out her story because my Dad had a very poor quality of life for the last 6 months before he died.  It hit me really hard today after reading her article.  I stood in the shower and really cried.  I hate Alzheimer's disease and every thing that it did to my Dad.  He had Scabies more times than we can count, he had a broken nose from trying to run away from a care-giver which resulted in a face-on collision with a door, he had MRSA - that nasty staph infection that had to be lanced open by the doctor and drained, he had a hernia that we could not treat because how do you perform surgery on an Alzheimer's patient?, he was on strong anti-psychotic medications that eventually resulted in his loss of mobility, appetite, and sped up his impending death.  I was begging the heavens near the end to please let him die.  He had almost no dignity left and no quality of life.  I now have to live with the memory of how he lived, where he lived, and how he looked toward the end of his life.  He didn't get the chance to say goodbye because he could not talk and he couldn't focus on us when we visited.  I know he would have wanted to die a different death.

So, I choose not to forget because it would kill me if someone else I loved had to go through what my Dad went through.  The future is unknown, but Alzheimer's statistics are not on our side, so it's likely I will have a run-in with the disease again.

I try to believe that our story must be more severe and more heart-breaking than many (not all) of the Alzheimer's stories out there because there are over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease, and if they all had stories like ours, then they would all be standing on rooftops and yelling for something to be done about this disease.  Right?  But, they aren't.

I just wish more people cared about Alzheimer's.

The Long Beach Alzheimer's Walk is less than two weeks away.  We are fund-raising and spreading awareness as we always do.  If we reach our team goal of $7000 for this walk, then we will have raised a total of $25,000 in the past 5 years for Alzheimer's.  That's an accomplishment.  We're determined to walk to change the future.