Living With Dementia
Author Christine Bryden’s journey of living with dementia begins when she receives a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s at the age of 46.
“Who Will I Be When I Die?” by Christine Bryden is a personal account of living with dementia. Follow Christine’s story and uncover how the disease progressed over the years, and how she’s doing today.
Cover Courtesy Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Christine Bryden was forty-six years old when she was diagnosed with dementia. Who Will I Be When I Die? (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012) is a written account of her emotional, physical and spiritual journey in the three years immediately following. While offering first-hand insights into how it feels to gradually lose the ability to undertake tasks most people take for granted, this account of living with dementia is told with positivity, strength and the deep sense that life continues to have purpose and meaning. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “I’m too young!”
The neurologist with his back towards me, looking at my scans, said, ‘Your brain is like that of a much older person, showing signs of marked atrophy, particularly at the front. It’s consistent with Alzheimer’s.’
He looked away from the scans for a moment, and then said, ‘You shouldn’t be in any responsible position. You must retire as soon as possible.’
I felt as if time had stood still — surely this wasn’t happening to me. I had to rush away in a minute and chair a meeting back at work, and I had moved house over the weekend and was still unpacking and sorting out.
I must have misheard — he was mistaken — the scans maybe had got mixed up with someone else’s… ‘You’re joking — I’m too young to get Alzheimer’s!’
I was only forty-six — old by my daughters’ reckoning, but surely far too young to get an old people’s disease like Alzheimer’s. Any rate, I wasn’t forgetful, just stressed out — with migraines and getting a little confused every now and then — taking the wrong turn a few times surely didn’t mean I was getting senile!
The specialist sat down, leaning back on his chair with his hands behind his head and, with what seemed like almost a touch of pride in his voice, he said: ‘I’ve diagnosed a young mother of thirty with Alzheimer’s. I’ve seen diplomats, lawyers, judges retire for the same reason. You really must take action now to retire on medical grounds.’
His bow tie caught my attention — jauntily poised above his crisp white chest. I needed something to focus on, something real to make sure this wasn’t all a dream. It was neatly tied, not a clip-on, I was sure, and had quite a subtle pattern for something as ostentatious as a bow tie.
He glanced at the scans again. ‘It is not likely to be Pick’s, as the loss would then be all in the frontal lobes, and although you’ve got damage there, you’ve also got generalised atrophy all through, and enlarged ventricles at the centre. I’d like you to have psychometric tests done soon, too.’
‘Er…how long will it be before I…er…um …’ I stuttered.
‘Until you become demented? Oh, about five years I expect,’ answered the specialist, breezily.
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