This is the first of two parts of an ongoing weekly diary. Ginger Sanders will share 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 are going through.
By Ginger Sanders
Exclusive to KyForward
I met John at the 1993 NCAA Sweet Sixteen Men’s Basketball Regional in Charlotte, N.C. We married exactly one year later, bought a farm and moved my family to Kentucky from North Carolina. Life was good.
John and Ginger Sanders
John is the love of my life. Very few people find the perfect someone, the one that you can tell anything to, can make you laugh, and cry with you while watching “Steel Magnolias,” but I did.
John is a former college linebacker, good humored and a successful businessman. And handsome, oh my goodness, so handsome. He has been my “Sweet Baboo” for the past 19 years.
It was the first week of June 2011 that I noticed John was missing or confusing words when speaking. Of course, I didn’t think much about it. But it became more frequent.
On our way to visit our daughter in South Carolina, I told John we would stop at Bojangles, one of our favorite fast food haunts. To my surprise, John had no idea what I was talking about.
Even when I reminded him what it was, he still didn’t remember. I mentioned it to our daughter and she said she had been noticing some irregularities for some time.
My mind was in a whirl. The world stopped. I was scared to death. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. There was no dementia or Alzheimer’s in John’s family so I knew that couldn’t be the problem. Maybe it was the effects of concussions he received as a linebacker.
Maybe it was a tumor. Oh my God, what would we do?
In July 2011, I made an appointment with our doctor to discuss my concerns. (Concerns, hell, my fears.) Dr. Jamie Gilbert has been our doctor for 19 years so he was surprised that I was worried about John’s mental capacity. He had seen John for a routine appointment a couple of months prior and didn’t notice any difference in his demeanor. He knew there was no dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in John’s family. He thought that perhaps John was a little overwhelmed from his recent hip surgeries and being newly retired.
However, he gave me a written Alzheimer’s Test for John.
Keep in mind that John didn’t look any different. He hadn’t lost weight, didn’t look haggard — nothing!
Now came the big question, do I tell John that I was worried and had talked to our doctor OR come up with a little white lie (which definitely would be easier)?
I would have preferred not to worry John but we have always been honest with each other so I told him about the test. Man, it was the toughest thing I have ever done. Telling John I was worried about his memory and thought he should be tested him for Alzheimer’s! He agreed (I think he was placating me, knowing what a worry wart I can be).
In my mind, I had eliminated Alzheimer’s as the cause but was focused on a possible clot or tumor or something!
The next day, John took the test.
He scored a perfect 30 out of 30!
So that ruled Alzheimer’s completely out. We were so relieved.
I felt we were safe!
Tomorrow: The cruel reality
Although Ginger is a vice president of sales for a renowned antimicrobial 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. A dedicated family person, 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. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all of Ginger’s diary entries