The Elephant in the room
for me is not cancer nor is it heart disease. I can face deploying again with (not at the main bases) the real possibility of weapons being pointed in my direction or directed toward my transportation.
My real fear of failing health is not what can happen body, but what can potentially happen to one’s mind. Aging is a nebulous process that is just in the future when you are 20 or 30. It has a bit more reality as parents start to age (in most families – grandparents do not count in this respect – they are old when we are children and just get smaller and grayer as part of the natural order of life).
Sometime, perhaps at 40, or 50 or 60, comes this realization that life, as it currently exists, is not going to last forever. The initiating thought might come with grey hair or a few more wrinkles in the morning mirror. Occasionally a spark of thought comes from an innocuous and previously ignored question from a health care provider about advanced directives or living will. Normally you think in terms of accident or traditional illness.
All of that can be ignored as long as you are healthy. But what if, at an age much too young, you start losing your memory, your orientation, yourself? What then?
What is likely my biggest fear is dealt with compassionately and realistically by Lisa Genova in Still Alice. I picked it off the paperback shelf yesterday at the PX simply because the cover looked interesting and the back cover even more so.
Told from the view point of Alice, a 50 year old Harvard professor,it recounts the story of a brilliant woman who, in the course of just two short years, goes from being internationally acclaimed in her field to not recognizing her family. From initial concerns to marked deterioration, her early onset Alzheimer’s progress affects her job, her physical well being, and her family. The science and diagnosis provided in sound and in enough detail to lend credibility as well as the novel’s voice changes to reflect the shrinking of Alice’s world.
Thought provoking and occasionally brutally clear, this novel portrays a future that is not one that I want to personally experience.
Highly recommended as a short, thought provoking read.