OUR UNPLANNED JOURNEY (continued 4)
We continue to learn new things as we walk through this journey. For instance, we just learned what an autoimmune disease is. Our body’s immune system is supposed to protect us from disease and infections. However, if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells. My husband’s recent diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease. Doctors don’t know what causes ulcerative colitis, but they do know that inflammation is caused when the immune system reacts to substances in the body and attacks them.
We don’t know if any of the Alzheimer’s medications triggered the colitis. The skin patch medication he was on has been discontinued by his doctor for six months. At that time, we may consider trying it again.
We didn’t tell anyone, except immediate family, about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis for five or six months. We were trying to deal with the diagnosis ourselves. And, we didn’t know how people would react. Would they treat him different? Would they think he couldn’t understand what they were saying? Would they not know what to say to him? Would they be nervous around him? People with Alzheimer’s are just another human being living with a cognitive disability – just like people living with a physical disability. Even when memory is lost, intuition, emotional understanding and the need to be loved remain intact.
When my husband all of a sudden decided to tell a friend about his diagnosis, it was a relief to him to get it out there and not be worrying about whether to tell people or not. He could just be himself. He then let our church family know and others as the opportunities came up. He quickly found out that everyone still cared about him and loved him for who he was and still is.
The diagnosis was late onset/early stage Alzheimer’s. To most people, the symptoms are not obvious. Sometimes there is a struggle to find the right word during conversation and there is some unsteadiness when walking. These could also be a result of the stroke my husband had. The other symptoms are not so obvious – difficulty processing information, difficulty with numbers and dates, difficulty with balancing a checkbook, difficulty being in a crowd. He is still very functional, taking care of all of his own personal needs as well as thinking of others. He is currently reading the book, “The Greatest Generation”. He is still teaching me things (such as what kind of furnace filter to get and how and when to replace it). We just had our 56th wedding anniversary and I just had a birthday. He put a lot of thought into how we could celebrate both.
We wonder what the future holds. We don’t know the progression of the disease. We hope it is very, very slow. But, who knows what tomorrow holds anyway. It is a blessing from God every day that we wake up and begin a new day.