Alzheimer’s disease? No one had said anything about Alzheimer’s disease. I became anxious. Why hadn’t the neurologist mentioned that? For a moment, the world around me ceased to exist but for the voice in my head. Does my mom have Alzheimer’s disease?
Isn’t that something only old people get? How could she have it, and at this age? Grandma is ninety-four and she’s fine. Why is mom acting so calm? Does she understand what this means? Do I? How long does she have before . . . whatever comes next?
What does come next? The neurologist had mentioned “Parkinson’s Plus.” Plus what? “Plus” had sounded like a bonus. Economy Plus means more legroom—usually a good thing. Pert Plus was shampoo plus conditioner, also a good thing. No.
My mom was prescribed medicines for Parkinson’s disease plus Alzheimer’s disease. Her “bonus feature” was the symptoms of a bonus disease. As I read about the pills I was still holding, repeating phrases stuck out to me. “No disease-modifying ability.” “Limited efficacy.” “Like a Band-Aid.” Even the doctor had seemed resigned.
I later learned a cold joke circulated among med school students about neurology: “Neurologists don’t treat disease, they admire it.”) That night I was sitting alone in our Holiday Inn suite, a couple of blocks from the hospital.
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My mom was in the other room, and I was at my computer, manically reading anything I could find on both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, even though my mom’s symptoms did not fit neatly into either diagnosis. Confused, uninformed, and feeling powerless, it was then that I experienced something I’d never felt before
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