By Brian LeBlanc
I’ve been in the room for “the talk” a lot. No, not that “talk.” The other talk. The scary talk. Lots of different types of scary talks, actually.
You know the talk I’m talking about. You know, when the doctor comes in the room in his white lab coat, looks down at the chart, and unveils some God-awful news. You pray it never has to happen to you … or a loved one … or a friend … or even your worst enemy.
But as you know, for some, it just happens. I first heard “Mr. LeBlanc, you have Alzheimer’s” in 2014. Then it was “Mr. LeBlanc, you have vascular dementia.” Scattered all around all that were a bevy of heart procedures, and let’s sprinkle in some diabetes for good measure.
So that’s why I’m so happy, excited, elated – absolutely pumped — to report that I DON’T HAVE prostate cancer!
But The Last Few Months, My Outlook Wasn’t So Positive
You understand. Any man over 50 likely understands.
Getting up in the middle of the night to go.
All the time.
Not being able to go.
The symptoms are enough to stop any man in his tracks. And for someone like myself with so many health maladies – having long since come to terms with my own mortality – you’d think I’d be used to it. Just another thing. Another thing that might kill me. That reality — whether it’s dementia-related illness, heart disease or the potential for prostate cancer – never gets easier to swallow.
Before the doctor did all the tests and rendered his verdict that I DON’T have cancer, my mind naturally went lots of places – related, unrelated and completely out of this world. And my dementia, quite frankly, didn’t help.
Now, you know me. I try to have the most positive outlook possible. I bring humor into every aspect of life, especially in its darkest places. And, boy, did I go to a few of those places where humor couldn’t soften the blow.
What If I Need Surgery?
Surgery in advancing stages of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is risky. Any anesthesia beyond a mild sedative could send my mind into a permanent fog. As if that wasn’t already the case. My foggy mornings are becoming foggy days. My foggy days are stretching to foggy weeks. Weeks stretch to months where most of my days were spent not doing much of anything at all.
All the sudden, my important dementia advocacy and outreach work for We Are Dementia Strong and other affiliated organizations and networks … just … doesn’t happen. But that’s my life’s work. Our podcasts, our blogs, my talks all go on the back burner.
And that’s WITHOUT surgery and anesthesia.
I know better than most that my time, memories and cognitive abilities are finite. But if I had to have prostate surgery, would it be worth the risk of losing all that more quickly?
Creating Scary Alternative Realities
My dementia mind has a funny way of playing tricks on me. My neurons fire in the weirdest ways, creating crazy dreams, hallucinations and other experiences that feel so real. I could swear something happened, that I had some conversation or visited some place. Sometimes my reasoning and judgment just aren’t there.
So when thinking of this whole prostate thing, my mind created these alternative realities. I don’t even remember what they were. But Maureen, my wonderful life partner/care partner, tells me they were out-of-this-world bizarre. I apparently recalled conversations with the doctor that never happened. Maureen tells me that I often feared having to undergo strange, painful, experimental treatments that don’t exist in medical science.
But I was convinced they would happen.
Forgetting The Problem Entirely
Imagine hearing for the first time that you might have cancer. Just might. Now imagine hearing the C word “for the first time” again … and again … and again.
So, yeah, my memory clearly isn’t what it once was. While we often say dementia is so much more than memory loss, that’s obviously still a major part of it. So when Maureen would bring up an upcoming doctor appointment or that I’d be heading in for more tests, my first thought was always, “Why?”
Why go see this doctor whose name I don’t recognize? Why more tests? Cancer? What the heck?! It was like getting shot in the chest over … and over … and over again.
But Thankfully, I Don’t Have Cancer. And I’m Using This Experience To Show Gratitude
Perhaps you’ve seen I’ve begun sharing gratitude every day on Facebook. (I keep mixing up the word with “gratification,” which are clearly two different things, but you get the point.) I share something I’m grateful for.
It’s a nice meditation. It’s a nice reflection. It’s a nice way to recognize that, while I may struggle with health issues and all of this nonsense, I still have so much to be thankful for.
I’m thankful I don’t have cancer. At least it’s not that. I’m thankful for Maureen, the love of my life, without whom I wouldn’t be alive today. I’m thankful for doctors and clinicians, who may share scary news, but who want me to help me through whatever problems I can’t fix on my own.
And I’m thankful for you. For having this platform to share. To educate. To advocate.
To be #DementiaStrong.
Until next time.