-- Sarah McLachlan in the L.A. Times
I recently learned that the parent of a friend has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. My friend packed up her husband and kids, sold her house, left a job she loves in her chosen field, and moved 2,000+ miles back into her childhood home.
Brain cancer and dementia are two very different diagnoses, but they have a lot in common, among them loss of function, personality changes, and having to take the car keys away from a parent against their will. And death. Almost like brain cancer, but without the radiation and chemo.
I spent a long time trying to wrap my head around the fact that my grandmother, my mom's mom, had died at the very early age of 74, but my mom? 59 at diagnosis. If 74 was young, what the hell was 60 or 61? Here I was in my very early 30s and my friends were now losing their grandparents. What the fuck?
And then I read the above excerpt and it hit me. My college roommate lost her dad from a sudden heart attack our freshman year. At least four girlfriends, all a few years older than me, lost their moms to breast cancer a few years back. Plus my old Jazzercise instructor, and another woman from our class, who is now losing her dad, too.
I wasn't that young, and neither was my mom. I was not alone, just temporarily blinded by grief.
I can look back now at the seventeen months on that damn emotional roller coaster knowing that the hard part is over. With the stress of my mom's illness gone only the sadness remains. I cannot begin to put into words how much easier and uncomplicated my life is now vs. a year ago.
I think of my friend. Her mom's expected life expectancy? Six to ten years. Forget the uncertainty of will it be six years, or ten, or maybe just four? How much time will they have? My friend has an average of six to ten years of slow moving hell in front of her. All of it, for years, and the majority of her children's childhood.
As it turns out we got off easy. Who knew?