Running From the Devil: My Race to Beat Alzheimer’s

Do I have Alzheimer’s disease? No, not yet. At least I haven’t been diagnosed, but I have reasons to believe I’m at very high risk. My father, who recently passed away, had full blown Alzheimer’s and Dementia. My maternal grandmother wasn’t diagnosed, but was showing signs of it shortly before she passed away. Having a family member who had Alzheimer’s doesn’t automatically mean that you will get Alzheimer’s.

About 6 months ago I did the 23 & Me genetic testing. At the time, I wrote about my results in THIS POST, but  I only wrote about the fun stuff. What I didn’t write about then was that the testing showed that I have the APOe4 gene, meaning that I have a 30% chance of developing Alzheimer’s after age 65. This did not surprise me. It’s why I did the testing. I know, some of you are thinking, “A 30% chance and nothing to worry about until 65? What’s the problem?”

The problem is that with Alzheimer’s, there are usually subtle signs and symptoms that appear long before a diagnosis is made. Most people ignore or hide those symptoms, or attribute them to getting older. I see those symptoms in myself. If I’m cleaning up from dinner and holding a container of chip dip that needs to go in the fridge in one hand and the salt shaker that should go in the cupboard in the other hand, over 50% of the time, I reverse them when I put them away. Yes, I know that as we get older we all have more forgetfulness, but in mine I see a pattern. It’s not just putting the chip dip in the cupboard.

I  lose my big words more than I’d like. The multi-syllabic 50 cent words that impress people often escape me. It makes me feel quite lugubrious, when I want to say something and I know that I know a word for what I want to say, but I just can’t find it. (Yes, I’m trying to intentionally use big words as I talk about losing them) It’s a tangible feeling that I’m rummaging around in my head for the word and there’s a blank spot is where the word I want should be. And I can’t think of a simple synonym either! It’s like my brain has completely lost something. Sometimes the sentence I’m saying trails off or I just don’t finish it. Trust me, there are several other examples, but I’m not going to list them all. I know when something doesn’t feel right. I wonder if that might be why my blog, that I used to post to five times a week, has become something I just do occasionally now. Losing one’s sense of humor is a symptom.

If I do get full blown Alzheimer’s some day, I hope this is me.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to exercise regularly and I’m going to try to stimulate my brain to create new neural connections by learning. I intend to resume piano lessons, learn to speak Spanish,  join a chess club, post to both my blogs at least once a week, and resume table tennis, which was a passion of mine when I was younger (I once beat a guy who played in the over 40 World Championship tournament.)

Does anyone remember this movie? Balls of Fury (2007) Or was I the only one who watched it?

In addition to doing those things, I’m going to embark on a lifestyle/diet program that is supposed to have remarkable effects on preventing and reversing some of the cognitive losses of Alzheimer’s. If the results are as good as the book says, I will be very happy. Here’s the book:

Don’t worry, my blog isn’t going to turn into me preaching about Alzheimer’s, I’ll still try to write funny stuff, but I’m hoping to write about it and my journey here occasionally with sensitive humor. My dad losing his mind to Alzheimer’s over the last fifteen years, and me thinking that I might go down that same path is sobering. When I Googled “Alzheimer’s funny” to find some pictures for this post, I didn’t find the memes as funny as I thought I would. Some seemed mean or sad. Hopefully I’ll avoid that if I poke fun at myself in the future. Thanks for reading. I hope you’re having a great weekend! ~Phil

 

10 responses to “Running From the Devil: My Race to Beat Alzheimer’s

  1. Ah Phil. You & Me both. Condolences x
    Dad passed away finally in May after a long run in with both Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was hard going, so I know how you feel. I’m really watching my sugar intake now for the same reason, there’s a bit of research showing very strong links between those conditions, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.
    Take it easy.
    S

  2. Live for today, Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease,

  3. I actually work for the Alzheimer’s Association and I thank you very much for your courage in sharing your personal thoughts and fears in this public forum. I also lost my mom to dementia as well. …(Alzheimer’s is actually just one of many different types of dementia). ..so, I have some of those same fears myself. Bringing more awareness to this devastating disease in whatever way you choose, helps enact change, at some point, for those who suffer. If my job has taught me anything, it is to enjoy each moment you are given and focus on the things that REALLY matter, which when all boiled down usually ends up being the relationships we have with other people….not the things we strive to accumulate. Wishing you many blessings Phil. 🙁

    • Teresa, Thank you for your thoughts. Your advice to enjoy each moment particularly struck a chord with me because I have thought that enjoying each moment is also what my father did. With Alzheimer’s taking away his past and his future he could do nothing but live in the moment.

      • Touche ‘……. You hit the nail dead center . That is actually precisely all that any of us have….. Alzheimer’s or not….today. No one is promised tomorrow.

  4. My Mum just died of her dementia 10 days ago- she just turned 85- she was diagnosed at age 80, & so was her mother before her… I know we all have to die of something in the end, but losing all my memories & even the ability to speak is NOT how I want to go! Thank you for sharing your experiences, & although I do enjoy your humor blog posts, I will also greatly value your experience of being a human with health concerns similar to mine 🙏🏼 . Best wishes to you Phil, from G in Australia

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