Nov 7, 2011


I envision a time in the future when patients and their families would know they aren’t doomed.

By Mary Gazetas
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The women I know hope they will never get breast cancer.

I sense amongst my friends that this is a more immediate worry than finding out later down the road if you might be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

In September, my twin sister who is 68, almost didn’t stop to visit a portable screening mobile unit in the town where she lives on Vancouver Island.

Luckily she did.

Because about a week later she got a phone call from a hospital that something “suspicious” was seen. It was the kind of phone call nobody wants to receive.

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After the initial scare, (and shock) she proceeded with a biopsy and got the news it was cancer. A small tumor - but cancer nevertheless. I increased my visits to be with her during some important steps she had to take.

I was spending less time in the Alzheimer’s world where my husband lives to begin to enter into her world in terms of what would happen next and her feelings. We went camping and did several nice day trips in her boat, going slow, drifting down a river that had coloured maple leaves floating on the water with us, while watching salmon return to spawn.

It didn’t take her long to take the high road. She didn’t waste anytime by asking herself, “Why me?”

She believed she could hit it hard and began to surround herself with a team of friends who sent love and prayers.

Last week I was with her for a few days when she had a mastectomy done.

I’m amazed and impressed by the health care team who’re helping her. She has doctors, coaches, mentors, physiotherapists and best of all, a team of “navigators.”

The other thing I could not help be aware of is the stark reality, the contrast, of a language used compared to what we hear, or don’t hear, for those with Alzheimer’s.

I heard the words “CURE, HOPE, RECOVERY, SURVIVAL” spoken often.

Words I never hear in conversations with families and caregivers for people living with severe dementia.

When Bob posts articles related to an urgent need for a cure for Alzheimer’s I couldn’t agree more. Won’t it be a miracle when this hideous disease can be prevented and or stopped in its tracks.

One day there will be words like “cure and recovery” for those stuck in the world of Alzheimer’s - a world my husband once described to me as being in a state of “less than minus.”

I envision a time in the future when patients and their families would know they aren’t doomed.

Instead, it would be a time similar to the many brave women who develop a breast cancer that is curable.

Alzheimer’s survivors won’t be wearing the colour pink. I don’t what colour they could wear – maybe red, purple? Whatever – but a symbol that says to the world – we finally have a cure. We can
win this one.

Mary Gazetas is an artist, writer, volunteer who lives in Richmond B.C. Canada. Four years ago she knew nothing about Alzheimer’s. In fact she didn’t even know how to spell that word. At first she and her husband were overwhelmed by so much information available. Looking back it was a slow learning curve. Once diagnosed (February 2008) the progression of her husband’s Alzheimer’s was fairly slow until he went into a steep and sudden decline. Since then, Mary has continued to learn more - especially in the context of how to provide the best care in a residence environment.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room