Thursday, August 23, 2012
Alzheimer’s Diary: After eight long months, Ginger and John settle in for the long haul
(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.)
By Ginger Sanders
Special to KyForward
It has been eight months since we received John’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We just completed John’s third infusion at MUSC’s Clinical Trial. Eight months doesn’t seem like a great deal of time but when you realize how quickly your life can change, it is a millennium.
John and Ginger Sanders
I have chronicled the process in my weekly column. A choice is made of whether you accept the diagnosis and go gently into the night or fight it anyway you can. We chose to fight it. Key elements in fighting this disease are enrolling into a clinical trial, taking Alzheimer’s medication (which only slows the progress), switching to organic food, adding virgin coconut oil into your diet, exercise, keeping your brain active and embracing God’s help.
Like any battle, you mobilize all your resources to fight it. Ah, but then there is the war. We have won several skirmishes with John participating in a clinical trial and keeping him mentally active. But now the long haul starts; the everyday, the mundane. Living in TODAY and not counting all the tomorrows you were promised.
So where are we? We have determined that John IS receiving the clinical trial experimental drug which is a Godsend. At John’s last MUSC clinical trial infusion (his third), he was tested (as usual) for his cognitive reasoning and scored 90%! Amazing! This is the same man who could not remember his address and telephone number last month. This gives us hope.
We have moved from “save the day” mode to endurance mode. I have adapted my work schedule so that I can be accessible to John. I make daily calendars so John knows where I am, what I am doing and when I will be home. I check with him throughout the day. He has absorbed all tasks associated with the farm and house. We have become a well-oiled partnership. Ying and Yang.
The next big event is this weekend. It is the 50th Anniversary of the 1962 Danville High Football State Championship where John was the starting Linebacker. His coach, Ray Callahan, is being inducted into the Danville School’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Of course, we are attending but it is bittersweet. John is a little apprehensive due to his condition but I think it will be great for him. I have asked his son, Patrick, to join us so he can meet the guys his dad grew up with. I am trying to waylay John’s trepidation by assuring him that when he is at loss for words, I will jump in. What else is new?
The key at this point is to be honest with each other. Don’t take yourself too seriously. None of us can count on an infinite amount of time together so seize the day. Carpe Diem is never as poignant as it is with Alzheimer’s victims and their loved ones. I have just booked us a magical trip to Grand Cayman Island in September. I purchased an IPAD for John so he can expand his mind with new electronic experiences. Never having time to read while he was working, he has become a book hound, gobbling up nonfiction and fiction.
Our schedule consists of work, traveling to and from Charleston, S.C. for MUSC’s clinical trial, spending time with grandchildren (11 grandsons), church, taking care of the farm. You settle into a routine, like life can be.
I have to be watchful that we do not get stuck into a rut and let these precious days slip by us without making every one count. My John is my world and I can’t bear to think of living without him. BUT YOU CAN’T THINK LIKE THAT! You have to seize the moment, enjoy the miracle of finding each other and counting every day as a blessing. We have embraced our family, our love for each other, our amazing grandchildren, and our church and thank God every day for the time we have together.
But this is the way we should always be. None of us know how much time we have on earth. So why didn’t John and I cherish every moment before now? We were complacent. But heck that is life, isn’t it?
Next Column: Day to Day, Small Wins and Losses
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