By Ginger Sanders
Exclusive to KyForward
(This is part of an ongoing weekly diary as Ginger Sanders shares the emotional journey she is taking with her husband, John, as they discover his onset of Alzheimer’s. Over 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease; one in eight older Americans have it. Ginger and John Sanders did not expect to be among those statistics. Ginger’s touching story puts a real face and real name on the statistics and – she hopes – will help all of us understand what so many of our fellow Americans, loved ones and neighbors are going through.)
Once the diagnosis sinks in, your whole world changes. Priorities that were so important are no longer crucial. What good is wealth, promotions, accolades, if you don’t have the love of your life with you? So my focus became a quest to find anything and everything to help My John.
For those that wonder about the test you can take to see how well your and or your loved ones’ cognitive skills are, I have attached the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) which was used to test John. Do it every 3 months if you have concerns. It is a life saver.
In today’s environment, the key factors in slowing Alzheimer’s progress are Alzheimer’s medications (Razadyne® (galantamine), Exelon® (rivastigmine), and Aricept® (donepezil)), exercise, eating organic foods, working your mind and interacting with people. John is taking Aricept. Like most Alzheimer’s victims, John was losing words when talking which embarrassed him greatly. He began to lose his confidence in just talking with folks. Of course, losing his confidence deterred him from interacting with anyone outside of the family. Human interaction is critical for Alzheimer’s patients; otherwise, they just withdraw completely. I was bound and determined to help John.
I called our church, Southland Christian Church, about John’s condition and asked if there was a construction committee or initiative. John loves doing physical work and is so talented with anything architectural or construction oriented.
Ginger and John Sanders in December 2007
Knowing that helping other people always opens your heart and mind, I was hoping we could find an opportunity for John to help others. Rodney Kern, awonderful Southland staff member, suggested John come on Tuesday nights to help with some of their construction projects. Although I had to force John to go, he was a different man when he returned. He felt useful, renewed and not self- conscious. He was getting some of his confidence back. So we were starting to make some positive steps. He continues to help them every Tuesday we are in town and is energized everytime.
Still mulling over how to combat this disease, the Medical University of South Carolina Alzheimer’s (MUSC) Clinical Trial popped into my head. How do you go about getting into a clinical trial? Is it a tryout like in making the “team”? What is the criterion other than having Alzheimer’s?
I emailed Dr. Smith at the University of Kentucky asking for his help in getting John into MUSC’s clinical trial. To my surprise, Dr. Smith responded within 2 hours with a copy of an email he had sent to the MUSC’s doctors soliciting John’s enrollment into the clinical trial. Things were moving very fast. I was elated.
The following day, MUSC contacted us to schedule John’s orientation and qualification appointment. QUALIFICATION? What did they mean “qualification”? John had Alzheimer’s, why wouldn’t he qualify if there were slots available. I was panicked! This clinical trial could be our only hope in prolonging John’s life and quality of life. I was already trying to figure out how I could ensure John “QUALIFIED” or made the team. MUSC scheduled our appointment for the March 12-13 in Charleston, SC. We had to get his records from our family doctor and from UK for MUSC’s doctors.
March 12th finally arrived and we were nervous as we drove to MUSC in Charleston, SC. However, MUSC’s staff quickly waylaid our fears. They took both of us through hours of testing. My part of the testing was to provide recent events involving John so they could test his short term memory. For John, they took him through hours of cognitive testing as well as EKG, urine and blood tests. They also scheduled a MRI at MUSC to obtain a baseline of John’s brain.
They went through the clinical trial’s scope and responsibilities in detail and were so patient in answering our questions (I had listed over 20 questions when I read the syllabus of the clinical trial). I know they thought I was a little over the top in my questions but I wanted to make sure we knew all the pitfalls and possible positive outcomes. Our biggest concern was the clinical trial is a double blind study with 66% of the participants receiving the trial’s intravenous test drug while the other 33% would receive a placebo or saline solution. We were upset that we might not get the drug. Also, the biggest side effect of the drug is horrible headaches the day after the infusion. Knowing this is our best chance, we agreed to everything. The journey was beginning. Our first trial drug infusion was scheduled for June 18th.
In the meantime, I began spending large quantities of time on the internet, searching for any options, homeopathic, natural, cutting edge; it didn’t matter. We needed to slow down the disease’s progress since I was seeing, daily, degradation of John’s memory and retention. I posted John’s diagnosis on my Facebook with hopes of friends having some information that would help us. I was seeing John’s mental capacity deteriorating in front of my eyes.
And to my amazement, a childhood friend of mine, Michael King, contacted me on Facebook about something that helped his dad, who had had Alzheimer’s. Surprisingly, it was organic, virgin (a joke could be made here), hand-pressed, coconut oil. He sent me a link to a video that knocked my socks off. So I watched it, viewed other videos and articles relating to virgin coconut oil.
I was astounded by the amazing properties that coconut oil has. So I ordered some from Tropical Traditions. Within one week of giving John 3 tablespoons a day in a fruit smoothie, I began seeing a marked difference in John’s behavior and memory. It was absolutely astounding. I shared the results with all of our family and friends. We all began to take virgin coconut oil daily and it has helped my retention dramatically.
Here’s the recipe:
DAILY Miracle Smoothie
Take everyday, it will keep your brain sharp.
In sequential order:
• ¾ cup of Vanilla Yogurt
• 1 tsp of LOCAL Bee Pollen
• Fruit (BLUEBERRIES are the BRAIN food, or whole banana, whole peach, strawberries , any fruit)
• 1 squirt of LOCAL honey
• 3 tablespoons of handpressed,Virgin Coconut Oil
Put into bullet blender and mix
Next Thursday: The Clinical Trial’s First Infusion
Although Ginger is a Vice President of Sales for a renowned anti-microbial company (SAS Global Inc.), her main objective is to stymie the onslaught of Alzheimer’s on her husband, John. Ginger lives with her husband and three dogs on their farm in Lawrenceburg. Dedicated family people, she and her husband have 11 grandsons. Ginger Sanders is a transplant from South Carolina and a product of the University of South Carolina where she majored in the English Literature. She has taken on the fight of Alzheimer’s to win and help others as they struggle through the quagmire of this disease. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all of Ginger’s diary entries