Monday, September 30, 2013

Still Alice

As I mentioned I read quite a few books on my vacay and one that has really stayed with me is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Deborah and Susan read this book and both recommended it to me but I resisted. Did I really want to read a book about early onset Alzheimers Disease when I find myself trying to remember things these days? Where did I put that book? Did I forget to get milk when I went to the store? etc etc.... I always prided myself on being highly organized. I was one of those people who kept a list of things to do so I could mark them off and feel like I had accomplished a lot in my day! Now I need a list to remember all the things I am supposed to do. Some call it "mentalpause" and it could easily be mistaken for something more serious. Or at least I thought that until I read this book and realized there is no mistaking Alzheimers Disease for forgetfulness.

Alice is 51 years old. She is a wife, mother and accomplished scientist at Harvard. She travels the world sharing her expertise with others.  But one day she is out running and cannot remember how to get home. She totally forgets that she was supposed to fly to Chicago for a conference. Thinking she is suffering from menopause, she sees the doctor only to find her hormones are in perfect working order. Being a scientist who studies the brain, she feels a knot in the pit of her stomach and decides to have more tests done. It is early onset Alzheimers Disease. Alice keeps it to herself for a while before informing her husband. He is also a scientist and immediately begins to look for help for his wife. Perhaps she could be part of a test trial for a new drug. He is grasping at straws and he begins to see his capable wife struggle with many facets of her life. She repeats questions. She goes to the neighbor's kitchen, thinking she is in her own home. Alice does take Aracept and is able to function well enough to start an EOAD support group. It truly helps her to be with others who are struggling with this monster of a disease.  But the inevitable decline comes to Alice and her family. Knowing there is a gene for EOAD, two of her three adult children are tested. One has the gene, one does not. The third child declines to take the test as she would rather not know the answer to the test.  This book really gives you a look into a future that could face many baby boomers.

Lisa Genova has the ability to write from a patient's view point. Her book, Left Neglected, is also a good read. Don't be afraid to read this book. It does have many sad scenes but you will find yourself rooting for Alice to live as fully as she possibly can until all that is left is love.


Anonymous said...

Arlene, that is so tragic. My daughter had an interesting case. A woman in her 60's was fine until one day she just was acting so erratic. It wasn't a gradual thing. Turns out the woman had been on holiday in England where she contracted (can't remember the real name) mad cow's disease. Sadly, it is downhill from here. There is no cure.

Arlene Grimm said...

That is so sad of the down sides of being in the medical field is hearing of patients like this poor woman. I still remember many of my "odd" cases, including one young man who almost died from catscratch fever. This was back in the late 70s.