Not long ago I wrote a post about Alzheimer’s disease. I discussed how it was a tragic loss of self, and I included some information about the Alzheimer’s Association. However, after having finished this beautiful novel by Lisa Genova today, I have a better image of what it is like for someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, particularly early-onset. A few years ago I saw the movie for this book where Alice was portrayed by the talented Julianne Moore, and I was very touched, however when I read this book I got a completely different feeling.
This is not just a book about illness. When I saw it in my bookshelf knowing what it was about I thought “oh yeah that’s the book about Alzheimer’s”, and while is it pretty much the theme, I understood after reading it that it is also a book about family and about love. It is a book about awareness, and it is a book about understanding. When you see a person with a physical handicap, or someone who you can visually tell is fighting cancer, we see someone who is brave, someone who is a hero. For some reason when a person suffers with mental illness or with a cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia in general, the word people tend to use is “crazy”, their fight is undermined and they are thought to be frustrating and hard to cope with. Alzheimer’s is a very serious incurable and quickly progressive disease and the people who are diagnosed with it have an unimaginable internal fight. A fight to remember. To remember the people they love and that they love them, to remember their name and who they are, their accomplishments, their struggles, or even where they live.
Dr. Alice Howland has been a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard for over twenty years, she is an world-renowned expert in linguistics and a published author or many articles and a book. She is a mother of three and has an equally smart and successful husband. She is proud of the life she has built. A little after her fiftieth birthday she starts noticing symptoms of forgetfulness that she disregards as simply menopausal, but after that comes a diagnosis that will change her life and that of everyone around her forever.
What I learned:
- Give importance to the present. we often dwell on the past or think about the future, but we fail horribly in embracing the moment. “My yesterdays are dissapearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live for every moment. Some tomorrow soon I will forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it tomorrow doesn’t mean I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that does not mean today didn’t matter” Unlike Alice we will probably remember today so we might as well make today worthwile.
- It is important to build a life we are proud of, but our career and our work shouldn’t keep us from realizing what is the most important part of life. It is family and it is love. We need to have people in our life that love us unconditionaly and will always put us first, and we need to make sure to always put them first and love them unconditionally in return. At the end of the day when we don’t have a career anymore, the relationships we build are what will bring us utmost and true happiness.
- Lastly I learnt that I should always do my best not to limit people who have either physical or mental handicaps. They are the ones suffering and we are the ones with the responibily to empower them. Also never undermine the pain or suffering of another person, don’t look away and fear them, and whatever happens do not judge.
I really recommend this book and I hope you all decide to read it as some point. If you really don’t read I recommend you at least watch the movie which I believe is currently on Netflix. And whatever you do don’t forget to cherish your today and to love unconditionally.
Love, Knowledge Empress