Dementia is a terrible disease. Defined as senility, it covers a ‘broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think’. It robs you, like a thief in the night of the person that you once knew. Dementia robs the patient of their independence, personality, skills, memories, and ‘selfness’. It spares the consciousness.
This is what haunts me the most.
Globally, dementia affects 36 million people.1 I have seen so many patients over the years with the disease feeling a deep connection to them, their struggles, and the struggles of their loved ones. Because of one patient. The one that belongs to me. The one that I would’ve given anything to develop a cure to save. Except. There is no cure for dementia.1
This is the woman that could not swim and was deathly afraid of the water, but kept me from drowning as a child when I was too tired to bathe before bed. That ensured I survived after throwing rocks at Pop’s camper. One. Too. Many. Times. She was a saint that mailed me cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins an innumerable number of times in college. Feeding my dorm, my sorority and me by sheer volume. Her baked goods reaching far and wide not just across the US, but across the Atlantic, comforting and feeding the Spaniards as well!
Mrs Fields, Betty Crocker, and Paula Deen have nothing on this woman.
She served as my guide on how to cook, providing recipes, secret tips – you must bang it on the counter to get the air out – no, seriously, bang it! She served as my role model for what a wife should be: a partner, made from his rib, to stand by his side. She served as a map when I had lost my way and my faith. She served so many roles; the void will never be filled.
But that’s how doctors are made. Like clay in potter’s hands, every patient, every loved one, every experience in life molds a doctor. There are cracks here and there. Sometimes the vase folds and returns to the lump of clay from which it started. Sometimes, once we have been made, we are broken, and we are forced to reexamine what made us, ‘us’ to begin with. I am so thankful she cared for me so tenderly and helped me become who I am today. I will continue to see her in every sweet-no-holds-barred firecracker that comes to my office refusing to slow down. I will continue to fight the thief that robs my patients of their memories and selves. Hoping, against hope, for a cure.
My favorite memories, in no particular order:
1) lying on the sofa with my head in her lap
2) word searches
3) love/hate relationships with Matlock and Jessica Fletcher
4) on pledging my sorority, learning she too pledged: ‘eata byta pi’
5) always kiss him goodnight; it’s not worth yelling
6) if you spray bees with water over your head, you will get wet
7) don’t pray for patience and strength; God will answer your prayers
8) dancing is a lot of work and takes practice
9) buy the green properties in monopoly
10) i love you a bushel, a peck, and a hug around the neck
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