When my mom was diagnosed with terminal uterine cancer, she was displeased to say the least. Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just after witnessing her mother pass away from the terrifying disease in 2014 did not exactly bring out the sunshine, either. But she suddenly saw terminal cancer as a silver lining in a dark cloud.
Because Mom had recently witnessed the struggle and subsequent passing of her own mother from Alzheimer’s, she was adamant that she would not suffer the same fate. Having been so ill from cancer treatments that would not save her life, she decided to stop having chemotherapy and proclaimed that she would rather die from cancer, not Alzheimer’s. She was also aware of the enormous burden placed on the family caring for a loved one with dementia and felt some relief that she would pass away before it was an issue for hers.
By the time of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mom expected to be gone in a matter of months because of her poor prognosis, and she planned accordingly. Fast-forward 18 months, and she is still here, albeit a bit less cognitive.
Sometimes she is grateful to still be alive, especially because after many years of being overweight, she can now fit into her skinny clothes from her disco days (if only we could find that old, gold lame suit). She is also grateful that she still recognizes family and friends and is able to follow current events.
Other times she is acutely aware of her progressive mental decline and becomes extremely sad and despondent when she loses the ability to do or understand something. She often voices regret that she must go down the same terrifying path as her own mom and hopes to retain some independence during the process.
I am just grateful that she still recognizes her friends and family. She can still walk, and her sense of humor is still intact. We laugh often to alleviate the pain that is Alzheimer’s. Even when the tears are flowing, one of us is cracking a joke and there is laughing because we know that we are lucky for this time and try to squeeze whatever humor is available out of each moment.
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