I became interested in Zach Anner, an up-and-coming YouTube celebrity, because of my friend Christine. She, too, lives life from a wheelchair, diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Currently working on her autobiography, Christine’s memoir opens with “It was lonely being a child in a wheelchair. I was bullied.” In an online interview with Oprah, when asked to identify his biggest challenge, Zach makes a touching admission: “Figuring out that I’m worth this experience, because it’s hard for me to accept that I might deserve this.” … More Lesson #22: The Stink of Stigma
As Joseph Campbell† and countless sages have pointed out, all human fears circle endlessly around the topic of death. Fear of anything is, ultimately, a fear of dying. Whether triggered by spiders, poverty, speaking in public or being alone, it all comes back to a basic fear of being separated from those whom you love and/or that which is most familiar to you, which is life. … More Lesson #21: Death Be Not Shy
We think of love as an emotion. And it can certainly provoke a wide range of emotions, from the all-encompassing rosy glow of romance to the bitter burn of jealousy. But as the pioneering scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto tried to prove (still controversial, but amazing nonetheless), emotions are actually energy, produced in the form of vibrations. … More Lesson #20: Love is a Virus
Heightened awareness can be a bitch.
You know that feeling, right? A topic starts trending, everyone is talking about it, and before long, it’s “top of mind” in your own little world. … More Lesson #19: You Are What You Eat
The deep mystery of the brain becomes the unfathomable fog of guesswork surrounding treatment and care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are learning in leaps and bounds, thanks to the advent of and advances in brain imaging technology. But in reality we know very little, and all existing treatments are a best-guess scenario. … More Lesson #18: We Do Not Know
The other day I walked quickly before a rainfall to secure a lone taxi. I was just behind a man who, as it turned out, also needed the taxi. A rare gentleman, he asked me where I was headed and offered to share his ride. As we awkwardly made small talk in the back seat of the cab, I mentioned that I had moved to the area to care for my parents, both with dementia and Alzheimer’s. … More Lesson #17: Help Help Help!
There is so much about caregiving that makes me sad, and looking back is a big one. Mom seems to be moving into an advanced stage of her Alzheimer’s; she has recently become more confused, less willing to get out of bed in the morning, and less connected with reality. She’s having trouble going to the washroom on her own, she struggles with her fork and knife, and her appetite has decreased. Along with her increasing inability to express herself, it’s truly heartbreaking. … More Lesson #16: Look Forward, Stay Present
My mother has shown signs of “sundowning,” which is a peculiar behaviour in some people with Alzheimer’s. The name is apt; when the sun disappears, the change in light can trigger confusion and agitation in the brain. I noticed this in my mother during the last months of winter. At around 6 p.m., she would start to become restless and uneasy, a bit “clingy.” I assumed it was because she didn’t want me to leave, having become dependent on me and our other caregiver. … More Lesson #15: Do Your Homework
My older sister, who lives on the other side of the country, has a rough time hearing about all the changes that my parents are experiencing. She’s grateful they are being well cared for, but finds it emotionally distressing to follow their journey from afar. In the past few years, she has made the trip home as often as possible, and for as long as she can. She’s here for a month now, staying with them and offering me some respite. … More Lesson #14: The Cortisol Curse
My mother was often my first phone call when I was pissed at a colleague, thrilled about a new writing challenge, or just feeling blue and needing some cheer. She’s been there from day one, helping me put things in perspective and providing unconditional love. My Dad, too, has always been a kind and generous mentor, advising me in my career and with financial matters. I can’t thank my parents enough for j … More Lesson #13: Don’t Forget To Laugh