“The results of your PET scan are consistent with early stage Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. P, soothingly and solemnly.
“Thank god,” I say to myself. “I’m not going crazy. There is something wrong with Sky.”
I place my hand on Sky’s arm, and watch his deer-in-the-headlights look blossom.
These words might be soothing to me, but they sure as hell aren’t soothing to Sky. He claims he remembers little from that day, but with significant short term memory loss, what can you expect? Can’t say as I remember that much either, some questions and answers between Sky and the doctor. “No, we can’t predict anything.” “Probably you have six to eight good years, maybe more, maybe less.” Not really answers, then, mostly statements that could be said to anyone. Some discussion of medications, pros and cons, and whether it’s worth trying one. Then we leave.
We leave to go home after holding hands on the way to the car, in the car before Sky starts driving, and most of the way home. Luckily, it’s not far. Sky makes three phone calls — to his oldest friend, to his sister, and then to his daughter. He will tell his son later that day when his son gets home from work. I try and give him privacy for those phone calls. I stay in the house, alternately crying and rejoicing.
You may think it’s cruel that I’m rejoicing. I’m happy — thrilled, even — that after several years of knowing something was not right, I now know what the problem is. For me, knowing gives me the opportunity to do something about the problem. Not knowing leaves me constantly wondering, fussing, trying this, suggesting that, only to leave both Sky and I confused and no closer to an answer.
Not that there is really anything for me to “do” now. This isn’t a treatable disease like cancer or heart disease where one can research treatments, make changes to lifestyle, look for a second opinion or the best research hospital. There is nothing to be done here. I don’t even need to educate myself about the disease as I spent several years working in a memory care unit in a nursing home. I know about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I know the kind of care that is necessary as someone reaches the stage of needing institutional or full time help.
So, for right now, all there is for me to "do" is to learn patience. It won’t be easy.