Healing From Within – Living with Alzheimer’s with Courage and Empathy
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within”, your host Sheryl Glick author of The Living Spirit: Answers for Healing and Infinite Love welcomes Greg O’Brien, author of On Pluto. Greg has more than 35 years of newspaper and magazine experience as a writer, editor investigative reporter and publisher. He is the editor and author of several books and has published many books by other writers through his publishing affiliate Codfish Press. Mr. O’Brien contributes articles to the Huffington Post. Greg shares his diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer’s explaining how his maternal grandfather, his mother and uncle died from the disease. Acting on long term memory and skill, coupled with well-developed journalistic grit, O’Brien decided to tackle the disease and his imminent decline by writing frankly about the journey. He presents the weapons he has gathered to slow Alzheimer’s progression—medications, aerobic exercise, daily writing, an uncompromising routine and the company of family and friends.
Sheryl asks Greg how he chose the title On Pluto. In order to understand how bizarre some of the events and symptoms may be and share them with others. Greg seeks with humor rather than fear to know what it’s like to lose your mind and thoughts… entering into perhaps a place of fear or sorrow…. to see your very identity and personality— that which makes you “you” in the sense of the physical ego- based world disappear. Veteran journalist Greg O’Brien likens it to a trip to Pluto where no one can see you or hear what is said. Pluto he writes is metaphor for loss of self—penetrating isolation that heightens the urge to drift even farther.
Sheryl tells Greg that she believes he has written an honest naked truthful and authentic account of living with Alzheimer’s not dying with it and in the deepest sense of perhaps discovering a greater spiritual reality: to value your spiritual connections to those who have passed before and who she feels may be at your side to support this journey while gathering the knowledge and soul energy to help yourself and others.
Sheryl is amused and delighted to tell Greg she often shares coincidences with her guests and of course today she has them with Greg. Sheryl goes on to say my son’s name is Gregg like you and in your book the foreword begins with,” Every story has a beginning middle and end….and we met you Greg in the middle…When I was in Junior High School in the IGC or gifted class which enabled me to skip a grade.. one day I was in a history class and for some reason my attention was elsewhere..I didn’t know it at the time but I was highly intuitive and was often distracted or picking up impressions from Spirit or that plane of life beyond here where all thoughts and energies, souls, and life continues…So the teacher called on me and asked for the 3 parts of the Constitution and I blurted out, “The beginning, middle, and end. I was so proud of myself….She was very angry with me and thought I was being a wise-guy but actually that was as good an answer as any, for in truth in the circle of life there is no end and no beginning only continuous energy and evolution.”
Another coincidence happened when Sheryl saw the cover of Greg’s book with the 3 dandelion blowing in the gentle breeze. She thought immediately of a story in her book The Living Spirit where she tells an intuitive clairvoyant impression she had of her granddaughter Samantha holding a dandelion seed pod and blowing the white poof particles into the wind while making a wish. Samantha seemed sad and she didn’t know what to ask for. Soon after this Sheryl picked up a children’s book by Dr. Wayne Dyer entitled “I Am”. She came to a page that appeared to be the exact image of Samantha holding the dandelion and with the picture were the words… “Along the way you will find great happiness and love and you’ll learn that wishes do come true from within not above.” A week later at the playground.. Samantha was on the swing flying high into the sky and called out to me with a smile. “I just want to be Happy”…she had made her wish.
Alzheimer’s is named after Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer who in 1906 first identified amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that rob the brain of identity and is the most common form of dementia—an umbrella term for irreversible cognitive collapse. The early stages are marked with increasing impairment of learning and short term memory with some language challenges. The moderate stage is a progressive deterioration that leads to incapacity to perform certain common day functions: memory worsens, filter is lost, rage is intense, inability at times to recognize familiar places and people: some urinary and bowel incontinence, and at times illusionary misidentifications which the layman less politely would term hallucinations. The advance stage is characterized by wandering and a complete shutdown of cognitive and body functions.
A slow progression could take 20 years once it’s been diagnosed and the disease can begin 15 years before diagnosis. With some the progression for reasons unknown is far quicker.
Medications to deal with disease Aricept…20 milligrams of Namenda to reboot the brain: 50 milligrams of Trazodone to help sleep; and 20 milligrams of Celexa (Citalopram) to help control the rage.
The word Dementia is a word that conjures up a sound perhaps a howl in the night or biblical imageries of a demonic maniac on the loose…Dementia is derived from the Latin root word for madness, “ out of one’s mind, an irreversible cognitive dysfunction a walking nightmare in which you can’t escape the bogeyman no matter how fast you run. Alzheimer’s is a marathon against time, and so it is wise to keep running to outpace this disease that ultimately takes you over.There are more than 80 types of dementia identified, used to be an old label like hardening of the arteries. Alzheimers is the most prevalent but then we have Lewy Body dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, Huntington disease, frontal or temporal lobe dementias including Pick’s disease and Primary progressive aphasia, HIV associated dementia, Dementia pugilistica (Boxer’s Syndrome, Corticobasal degeneration, and other genetically related dementias.
Greg tells of some famous people who have suffered with Alzheimer’s including Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell was diagnosed in 2011, refused to retreat and showed us how to shine when the stage lights go dark…He launched his Goodbye Tour with 3 of his children joining him in backup band In April 2014. At 78 still a man for all seasons in his inner soul, he became a patient at a long term care facility Greg says that Campbell was a guiding force for him earlier in life and he memorized his music when he made cross country trips to the University of Arizona such as” By the Time I get To Phoenix” and “Gentle on My Mind.” A documentary on the marvel of Campbell’s music, love of family, and his battle with Alzheimer’s was captured in a documentary called Glen Campbell…I’ll be me.
Greg’s mother faced Alzheimers as well long before it was diagnosed. Greg wrote… “As a teenager I noticed her often standing at the kitchen window overlooking a corn patch with Rye Brook in the distance..She was talking to herself, fully engaged in a conversation. At first I thought it was a way of deflecting the stress of raising a brood of kids…the disengaging increased; misplacing objects, loss of memory, poor judgment, and yes, the rage—warning signs years later that I began noticing in myself. Many years later after retiring, my father and mother moved to Cape Cod. She kept saying I can’t get sick yet: she was sick, and she knew it. The forewarning signs were textbook, yet we were all in denial…Over time Mom began sticking knives into sockets, misplacing money, brushing her teeth with liquid soap, refusing to shower, not recognizing people she knew, hallucinating and raging at others. Unremittingly she cared for my dad, always refusing to succumb to disability. She encouraged me in my own progression, she taught me how to fight, how to live with Alzheimer’s, how never to give up .”
Sheryl tells Greg she is reminded of a client who sent her daughter to her for a Reiki energy session… “While I had my hands over her eyes during the session I heard a song and mentioned it to the girl…she started to cry and told me her grandmother had always sung that song to her when she was little but now had Alzheimer’s and didn’t recognize her. I said to her without hesitation… within your grandmother’s heart and true being or soul life, she is the same bright loving grandmother you know and will always love. Her spirit and soul will be eternally young and healthy beyond this challenge or physical illness, so remember the song and the love are still within her and you.”
Sheryl wonders to Greg if a person should be worried if they forget their keys and jump to the conclusion that they might have Alzheimers. Greg says maybe it’s nothing more than a senior moment or maybe it is the start of something. There is a clear distinction between forgetting where you parked your car and forgetting what your car looks like; forgetting where you put your glasses and forgetting that you have glasses; getting lost on familiar roads because you’ve been daydreaming and getting lost because your brain’s capacity to store information is greatly diminished.
In about 25 years there will be 2 kinds of people in the world: those with Alzheimer’s and those caring for someone with the disease.
More than 5,000 people TODAY have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and about 35 million people worldwide
Worldwide by about 2050 about 135 million are expected to have some form of dementia.
In the next 15 years Alzheimer’s is expected to exceed cancer and heart disease sevenfold and without a cure it will bankrupt Medicare…
Gregg describes Cape Code and how he wishes to remember his life at this beautiful place. Greg wrote, “The Wind has shifted on Cape Cod. A rusted iron cod on the weathervane at the gable end of the barn is pointing southwest, a warning of foul weather approaching from the nor’east. The weathered New England cedar shingles at a precise nine-inch pitch are wet with fine mist. Near a side door framed by lobster buoys washed up on the shoreline, a simple white dory window box is filled with colorful perennials. The barn has the feel of a dune shack, a writer’s retreat at the end of a barrier beach—all of it natural, a reflection of the man and his memories snug within.”
Tagore and Einstein among the brightest minds of the last century both wrestled with concepts of the mind, life, death and beyond: “Can the essence of a person survive without full function of the brain?…”
Tagore suggested “No” to Einstein…. “If there be some truth which has no sensuous or rational relationship to the human mind, it will ever remain as nothing so long as we remain as human beings.” Tagore told Einstein. Einstein replied “Than I am more religious than you”…I don’t believe Einstein was particularly religious, but he did understand quantum physics and how energy could never be destroyed nor could our thought patterns or the energetic impulses of our heart or soul life. Sheryl Says, “Metaphysics goes beyond matter to physics or the study of energy to understand life in the physical and spiritual realms. Physically life ends but energetically the full measure of our soul or I believe the authentic part of our being and all experiences gathered in this and previous lives go beyond this 3 dimensional field and continue in a Universal world of information and life. In my book The Living Spirit a work that was born out of years of doing spiritual readings and healing sessions for my clients… I described the impressions I received from Spirit and what I know to be true.… I wrote “By listening to your heart and the lessons of your soul, you will indeed be aligned with the wisest communication and guidance system of all worlds. In following this wisdom, you will sustain your sense of balance, courage integrity, and honesty, no matter what outside influences reach you…..Remember you and remember me as one together in unity and love for all time in life, and yes, in death.”
Greg O’Brien, who continues to detail the progression of Alzheimer’s offering a blueprint of strategies and life training skills to fend off for as long as possible the consequences of this disease always reminding others to live with whatever challenge you have and the hope that all is not lost even when it appears to be. Sheryl finds that any disease or insurmountable challenge may be part of this earthly learning experience for the soul to refine remember and renew itself with greater love and trust in the eternal nature of our physical and spiritual life. Greg tells a story Sheryl enjoys very much. “There are days I have to prompt myself to come back. Often my wife, children or friends summon me with a snap of a finger. The drifting is similar to sailing in a slack wind. In Alzheimer’s one doesn’t move fast, but the journey is soporific—respite from the interruptions of a brain gone awry, a flickering light whose plug is loose in the socket.”
Often Greg looks with a soulful flashlight in hand for his mother on Pluto, but know she’s not there. She’s with God. Many months ago one evening when Greg couldn’t sleep, typical of his journey, he was lying late at night on the couch in the family room, watching reruns of “Planet Earth”. Greg sensed a woman sitting next to him. Greg wasn’t sure if she had drifted off, was in-between sleep or was just dreaming. Still not sure the woman turned and looked at Greg. It was his mother. She stared straight at him. “Mom”, Greg said, “I can’t sleep!” “It’s ok. I can’t sleep either… “. From what Greg recalls from the encounter, she then rubbed the back of my head and within seconds, Greg feel into a deep slumber. It was the most restful, peaceful sleep of a lifetime.
Greg and Sheryl would have you remember to draw on your inner spiritual strength no matter what issues affront you, open your heart and mind to the Universal Source of Life and Unconditional Love and always know you can ask for help whenever you need it from the loving souls both here and above, and know it is all a gift of life.