How does a “Whisper” Turn into a Cure? How does a “Stigma” become a Treatment? When Will We Meet the First Survivor of Alzheimer’s?
Nobody survives Alzheimer’s. No one walks away from the disease having beaten anything. There are no winners; no one to claim victory. That’s the stark reality of today, and the harsh certainty for families given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. We don’t have to imagine a healthcare epidemic that has no known cure. We are facing it now, amidst a flurry of anxious thoughts that come when mom can’t remember how to make that chicken soup she’s made for over 30 years. We face the depth and breadth of it in the sinking moment our sister tells us she got lost going to her daughter’s house that’s been just down the street for a long, long time. We are “slapped’ with it the day our husband can’t think of his secretary’s name – the one that’s worked with him for over ten years…
Today, the “A” word accounts for the same terrible whispers the “C” word had when we were younger – the days when our parents, friends and neighbors couldn’t even say the actual word, “cancer” at the dinner table. Now, like it was then, there are murmurs in the church pews; there are knowing, sympathetic glances from others when our loved ones forget who they are talking to, or where they are. There are nights when we finally recognize we’ve been so overcome by Alzheimer’s disease, for so long that people have stopped asking if they can help. There’s no need to imagine what Alzheimer’s and its affects looks like…we can see it in our loved ones’ faces. It’s there, insidiously weaving plaques and tangles through memories we’ve taken a lifetime to make.
But, that is our present; and tomorrow’s prospect is where we cast our hope. The first person to survive Alzheimer’s is out there. They’re going to hold onto everything the disease steals away. That smile they can’t hide – that dance class they love… every single piece of them is going to make it through because research and science is beginning to catch up to the disease. Our government is starting to listen. Our communities, and our families, aren’t whispering the “A” word any more. We are living painful moments without a cure; now… But, what if we could imagine a future that survived Alzheimer’s?
How does a “whisper” turn into a cure? How does a “stigma” become a treatment? It happens when our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our families, our caregivers start beating the drum – the reverberation of voices multiplied, “Enough. We’ve had enough”. The present tells us that Alzheimer’s disease is the only top-ten leading cause of death in our country that has no prevention, treatment or cure. Currently, science can’t even slow it down.
Our future tells us that by funding research, advancing public policy and spurring scientific breakthroughs…and by providing local support to those living with the disease and their caregivers – the Alzheimer’s Association will continue to ease the burden for all those facing it until we accomplish our collective goal. The goal we share with every family who has to hear the word “Alzheimer’s” delivered in a diagnosis. And, this goal we share isn’t elaborate. We just want what every family who faces Alzheimer’s wants – a survivor – a glimmer of hope. But, we won’t know any kind of victory without challenging our awareness and our actions as a collective community of hopefuls. We need to start considering participation in clinical trials, so we have more research and data in the pipeline. We need to ask questions and start exacting answers from our elected officials when it comes to funding important research and support services in our country and our state. Florida has the 2nd highest prevalence in the country. And, we don’t want to be a state known for this kind of human casualty. Alzheimer’s disease has devastated millions of lives; half-a-million of them here, in the Sunshine State. But that can and will change when we reach the first survivor. Don’t just hope for a cure, help find one.