Hackworth

Time passes so quickly it seems, that I don’t recall the year.

But I think it was 2008 when I visited my sister Mearlyn in Huntington, West Virginia.

I had to check her out of the assisted living home. We drove around town for a while. We visited the old neighborhood where she lived for so long, giving me a temporary home when I was 16.

The air was crisp that day and she wore a heavy coat as we stopped at my nephew’s garden business and looked at a large display of bright orange pumpkins. Debra snapped a photo. It’s on our refrigerator now.

You see, this was the last time I saw my sister when she knew who I was. Alzheimer’s was already stealing her away from us, bit by bit.

That still-childish-at-75 person I knew was becoming sullen and distant. She remembered, when I reminded her, how she tried to teach me to swim when I was about 12. Heck, it took me six more years to get good enough at it to save my life if I fell in. But she tried.

We drove past the Marshall University football stadium. She loved football.

We got a hot dog at the Midway Drive-in, a local favorite.

And then I took her back.

It was more than a year before I was able to return. When I did, she had almost no idea who I was. She had slipped into a fog and had no sense of her circumstances or who these people were that kept coming into her room.

The only thing she would say was “I wanna go home.”


Another year passed, and we visited again. This time, she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, talk. Not a word. Just a blank stare.

She finally did go “home” on Feb. 25, 2015.

If anyone ever gave me a choice between cancer and Alzheimer’s, I’d take cancer. I know it’s also a terrible disease and can be very painful.

But Alzheimer’s sucks your soul away and turns you into a ghost right in front of your family. It’s an awful way to leave this earth.

That’s why I was so thankful last week to read the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved aducanumab (Biogen/Eisai) to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s the first drug that is said to slow Alzheimer’s disease. And, hopefully, it will lead to future Alzheimer’s treatments. A press release said the drug addresses the disease in a way that has never been done before.

“This approval allows people living with Alzheimer’s more time to live better,” said Harry Johns, Alzheimer’s Association president and CEO. “For families, it means being able to hold on to their loved ones longer ... It is about hope.”

One recipient of the drug described in another story I read said that this drug helps him “escape the fog.” He begged for its approval.

If you want information about this horrible disease, you can contact The Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

I pray, however, you never have to.

John Hackworth is the Pulitzer Prize-winning commentary editor of The Daily Sun. He can be reached at John.Hackworth@YourSun.com.

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