I stopped writing this blog in October 2014 because I'd discovered that I did not, in fact, have Alzheimer’s disease and because the decline in my cognitive abilities had stabilized. Several weeks ago, however, a reader emailed me to “urge [me] to do a 'follow up' post to let us all know how things are after this passage of time." It seems like a good idea.
I'm very grateful to be able to say that the gradual loss of my cognitive status that precipitated this blog three years ago has leveled out. Further medical tests indicated I did not have Alzheimer's disease. Cognitively I've been stable now for almost two years and over the past six months certain abilities have actually improved: I'm able to concentrate a bit more, and I don't get confused as much as I did. I still have significant deficits in memory, in word-finding, in organizing my thoughts, in multi-step cognitive processing, and in certain kinds of computation. Aside from my memory decline and my difficulty word-finding, however, most people don't recognize anything wrong or they think that it's just a result of aging. I believe it has to be more than aging, but whether it is or not is no longer important to me.
I'm not much embarrassed when I forget someone's name or even that we just met last week. Most everyone I see day-to-day knows about the loss, so I don't have to explain much. Generally, when I meet someone new, I'll tell them in advance that I'm terrible with names and faces and I'll probably forget who they are the next time. Usually, I don't have to go into detail.
One aspect of the decline that does bother me is that complicated discussions are almost impossible now. I can't remember enough to follow the ideas. My college-professor son-in-law, for instance, loves to get into abstract discussions about almost anything, and I just can't keep up anymore. We spent Christmas in Philadelphia with my daughter and her family. I'd recently read the book Capital (by Thomas Pinketty) and was excited about it, for it helped me to understand some of the important issues we're facing in our capitalist economic system. My son-in-law hadn't read it, but he'd read some reviews. When I started to tell him about the book, I could convey only my emotional excitement, not the particulars of what had excited me. As college professors are wont to do, I suppose, he immediately critiqued the ideas in the book, and I found myself almost helpless, frustrated, and irritated. (I love my son-in-law and don't want anything to stand between us, so I suppose I need to talk with him about it … or maybe he'll read this post.)
On the other hand, my intellectual functioning has improved enough that I've dared to go back to teaching some less complicated subjects. Because of my remaining confusion, I've decided to require my students to bear more responsibility for the class (making me more of a coordinator). This is probably better teaching than my previous lecturing, anyway, so I'm enjoying the teaching more than before.
What is much more important to me, though, is that many of the gifts I received from my time with Alzheimer's (here and many other posts in the blog, which you can find by entering the word "joy" into the site's search engine) have, to some degree, remained with me, and my life is more joyous because of it. I'm less uptight about getting things done and am fairly (although not completely) comfortable taking on fewer responsibilities. I'm easier to get along with (people tell me), and I have more friends. I can rely on others, where before I would have insisted on being more independent. None of this is perfect, of course; there's plenty of backsliding, but I am so much happier than before. It's a great gift.
Perhaps the biggest difference from several years ago is that I've been given back a future that I thought had been taken away. I had been counting on only a few years of full intellectual life remaining. (That was a certain kind of gift, too; I could let responsibility for long-term projects slide without guilt.) But now my future offers the possibility of more. I am able to take some of those responsibilities back. Despite my history of depression and a certain irritating realism, I have always been an optimist at heart. So I'm eager to see how it all works out. Even considering the broken state of our politics, even considering the state of racism and global climate change, I still look forward to experiencing this strange future that is coming.
So … I'm grateful. I can't ask for more.
So grateful you DID write this post to keep us updated! So glad to hear of your health and happiness!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for the update.ReplyDelete
was SO HAPPY to see this post pop up on email!!!!!!!ReplyDelete
and Happy for you, all the above.
and Glad for all of us that sometimes things simply are unexplained, but part of it all and we can just go on with life, small/large changes included.
Thank you for posting today
Thanks very much for the follow-up, and very glad things have stabilized; such a relief that things didn't progress as feared.
We all would like to hear from you again in the future, you know! :)
David Johnson MD
Eden Prairie MN
I am happy to read from you again. Thank you for your post. Don't give up the fight!!! LoveReplyDelete
Thank you so much for the update. I was thinking about you and this blog just a few days ago and hoping you were doing well. I am happy to know that you continue to experience joy in your life.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for your update. Was thinking about you the other day and wondering how you were doing. So glad to hear that you are doing well.ReplyDelete
Please allow me to join the chorus, I was pleasantly surprised to see this update. I had not forgotten you, I had actually just mentioned you to someone only a month or two ago. I am so happy for you, that you are content where you are. Live long and prosper!ReplyDelete
This was helpful to me. I am more accepting of my decreased abilities than I used to be but it was helpful to hear you say this is not failure.ReplyDelete
Thank your for writing the blog - very meaningful. Blessings.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the update! I would have rejoiced to no end if I could have seen the 'light' in my mom's eyes, but, alas, it never did return. Praise the Lord for your stability. I find as I am getting older, (73) in a few days, that I have a harder time with names, etc. A lot of this is just normal aging, at least I hope so. I read a lot, watch tv, try to do some Sudoku puzzles, and for the most part, feel like I'm doing okay. My Dr doesn't think there is anything wrong! Keep on!ReplyDelete
All these wonderful comments! Thank you. It feels like a journey we all took together. While I'm certainly happy to be cognitively stable, I do miss the opportunity to share with you all about something so important. Thanks to you all!ReplyDelete
This is really inspirational - thanks for the update. I think you have uncovered much more than is obvious to people right now about the vagaries of diagnosis and our ability to heal ourselves with the right support and stimuli. Please do send more news when you can. BTW Have you thought about meditation?ReplyDelete
I have been involved in meditation, including some long Vipassana retreats. I find it helpful although pretty mundane. It does help me slow down, though, and I find it easier to assimilate the teachings after several days of intense meditation.Delete