Monday, March 20, 2017

A New Kind Of Race

My mother has Alzheimer's.  We got the diagnosis three weeks ago.

I typed that out just now and had to let that sink in before I could type more.

My memories of my mom consist mainly of her being the outgoing, energetic, creative mom of six, grandma to 24, and great grandmother of one.  She excels in crafts, handiwork, decorating the home for every holiday, and preparing Sunday dinners for her entire family each week.  Her quilts are intricate, beautiful pieces of art.  She walks miles everyday with her best friends and neighbors.  And she has lived an independent life since my father's death in 2008.

But things have started to change.  We noticed an anxiousness that overtook her when she had to step out of her routine.  She had extreme anxiety when it was time to get to an event, like my daughter's wedding.  She'd stress over who was going to take her there and pick her up.  The mom who never stopped talking, over time, was the first to hang up in a phone call.  "Chow! Chow!" would signal the end of the conversation.

We saw the family practice doctor and he performed some simple tests.  "Table, apple, penny, remember those three words," the doctor would say.  Then he'd ask her to do a series of simple math problem and then went back to ask her to recall the words.  She could not say all three.  Ever. Cognitive Memory Impairment was her first diagnosis.

She was referred to a neurologist who did the similar line-up of tests.  But she struggled.  Perhaps most shocking was to draw the face of a clock and put the big hand and little hand at ten minutes to two.  She was confused and embarrassed when she couldn't draw the answer onto the white board. Through a series of more tests, doctors and scans, her neurologists eliminated the other possible outcomes of CMI and diagnosed her with Alzheimer's Disease.

So today, my focus turns to a different type of race.  The race for time.  For memories.  For interaction and conversations with my mom.   For the ability to tell her that I love her and let her know she was the perfect mom for me.  You see, our family has been down this road before.  We lost my father-in-law to the ravaging effects of Alzheimer's on January 2, 2016.  

This disease will steal your loved ones from you.  It will leave you heartbroken and devastated.  It lingers around and gives you glimpses of hope.  And then slaps you back to the reality that IT is in charge.

I turn my focus now in her direction.  There will always be another triathlon. My training plan, my nutrition, my race schedule will always be under my control.  But I can't escape the overwhelming cloud called Alzheimer's that is rolling again onto our horizon to rain down it's sadness and despair onto all of US.  She's starting to slip.  And I need to catch her.

This race is different. 

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Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.