I just finished a great book called Still Alice by Lisa Genova, in preparation for an upcoming book club discussion. It’s about a Harvard psychology professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The first few chapters had me scared – totally convinced I too would soon be diagnosed having forgotten waaaayyyy too many times where I put my purse, my train of thought mid-sentence, the word on the tip of my tongue, where I put the camera and why I was standing at the top of the stairs! It’s fiction but a great story told from the point of view of Alice, who is rapidly losing her cognitive ability. The fact that the author has a PhD in Neuroscience makes most, if not all, of the fiction, entirely believable.
I don’t have Alzheimer’s of course – at least not yet. However, half a million Canadians do. That, to me, is an astonishing number. It’s the same number of hockey-playing Canadians registered with Hockey Canada (I only know this as I am preparing my famous hockey momoir manuscript!). Over 70,000 of those Canadian diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are under the age of 65. Women, like the fictional character Alice in this book, make up 72% of all Alzheimer’s cases.
It is true that this disease is an incredibly heartbreaking and a tremendous burden on a family. This is true of most diseases. Despite moments when I had to put the book aside out of profound sadness, I was left with a great sense of hope when I had finally finished it. It is said that when a person is robbed of one sense, other senses become more acute. The reader is certainly drawn into the development of Alice’s new found abilities even if it was the simple enjoyment of an ice cream cone. Though most of the friends and family around Alice were deeply troubled by her decline, some were able to tap into these newly developed gifts. She was no longer able to teach at Harvard, but she developed intuitiveness that when disconnected with reality, she could immerse herself totally in a simply theatrical performance or with folding infants clothing.
Ok, not an uplifting happy book, but it is one I recommend and one that will remind me to cherish each day as a gift and be thankful!