I recently finished the book Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, which surprised me! I grabbed this book off my shelf with the expectation that I would be reading a short chick lit — which I was using as a pallet cleanser between Text Me When You Get Home and The Dreamers — about a girl getting over a relationship. And that is what I got, but here’s where I encountered a whole other level of the book: Ruth’s father is living with Alzheimer’s.
In the book the main character, Ruth, comes home for the first time in years. Normally she would go to visit the parents of Joel, her boyfriend. Without these alternate plans, she heads home to visit her Mom and Dad. The book opens with an excerpt about Ruth’s father ditching his pants all over the neighborhood. Ruth had labeled them and he was rebelling. Although Ruth is ready to return to her semblance of a life after the holidays, her Mom asks her to stay, for a year, at which point Ruth becomes her Dad’s full-time caregiver.
Her story is similar to mine
This is significant to me, because I am one of the people who loved someone who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. My grandfather, Poppop, as I know him, Bill, to those not descended from him, passed away in 2015 after a nearly decade long struggle with dementia. He was 78.
A lot of what Rachel Khong said resonated with me and I became sad thinking about all the stages of the disease she had not hit yet. Like Rachel, I poured myself over facts and figures. I provided suggestions to his caregivers from the material that I consumed. I also visited when I could, though several factors also kept me away from him, in an effort to cheer him.
Since his descent into Alzheimer’s, I identified and clung to something that would give me a chance to fight this menacing disease: The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I have been a walker since 2010 and a member of the event’s planning committee since 2015(ish). As a result, I spent a bunch of my freetime creating marketing assets for the event, networking with others who are affected by the disease, sharing my story and how I’m personally affected by the disease and, of course, raising funds for research to fight the disease.
If you get a chance to read this book, you’ll find that it’s not a pretty disease. The book shows examples of Ruth’s Dad isolating himself in his study, refusing to eat, going through emotional turmoil and reliving earlier times in his life, to name a few. There’s also the obvious word choice malfunctions and simple forgetfulness that we have all come to associate with Alzheimer’s.
Join the fight
So, here’s my suggestion to you, should you choose to pick up this book and desire a similar fighting chance against the memory monster, head to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website, find your local walk, and sign up. If you’re in the Philadelphia region, or the D.C. area (this is where my sister will be walking and I hope to join her), I’ll see you there! Regardless of where you walk, I’d love to hear your stories similar or dissimilar to mine.
I leave you with this. May we one day know a world without Alzheimer’s.