Many of you have probably heard the song, Live Like You Were Dying which was recorded by Tim McGraw. It came out in 2004 and I played it continuously, learning every word. The words apply to everyone, not just people diagnosed with a disease like Alzheimers. The first verse goes like this:
“I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me. And a moment came that stopped me on a dime. I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays, talkin’ about the options and talkin’ about sweet time. I asked him when it sank in, that this really might be the real end. How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news. Man, what do you do?”
In 2010, I had an accident that changed the trajectory of my life. Because of a heart problem I had since childhood, I fainted in the middle of the night in my bathroom and knocked all 28 teeth out of my mouth. My recovery was long and arduous, and required extensive dental work and plastic surgery. I also got my pacemaker which has improved my quality of life significantly. Unfortunately, at my six month pacemaker check up I found out that my pacemaker was pacing 99% of the time, and my heart was only functioning correctly 1% of the time. Something needed to change.
Lyrics: “I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing,I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness Id been denying. And he said “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you are dying”.
I was a divorced 50 years old woman who had two kids in college, and a high powered, very demanding job that I worked 75 plus hours a week. What was I going to do? The doctor made it very clear that I could not continue at this pace, and hope to survive for very long. Fortunately I was financially stable and I knew I could afford to make some changes. Within a month, I retired from the company I had worked 31 years for. From that point on, I started to live like I was dying. Six months after retiring (and starting a diet and exercise program), I returned to my electrophysiologist who did another pacemaker check. My pacemaker was only working 33% of the time now. The doctor said I should do a commercial to show what stress can do to you.
Since my retirement, I have learned to not take anything for granted. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Every day is a gift. I wake up so grateful every day. God is good and he spared me for some reason. He is not ready for me yet. This has been a particularly trying year for me. I was diagnosed with Alzheimers, my dog died from Science Diet dog food, and I found out I had uterine cancer. Not a good year to say the least. Yet, I am grateful and optimistic every day. Things could be so much worse and I know it. My friends and family tell me all the time that I seem deliriously happy, and you know what…..I am!
I tell people I know that I love them all the time, there is no time like the present to do so. I got married again and I am happy to say that I have been “lucky in love” this second time around. We decided to move to Florida and enjoy the weather here. We have travelled to Greece, Switzerland, France and Italy. I spend time with family and friends who I love. I communicate with God and show him my gratitude through good deeds like volunteering at a hospice, a domestic abuse shelter for women, the Alzheimer’s Association, and helping educate pet owners on health and nutrition through my Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time Group on Facebook.
I realize that my future with Early Onset Alzheimer’s is pretty bleak, but I am having too much fun enjoying every moment I have left on this earth. My husband and I golf and socialize with friends regularly, and we plan on traveling more extensively over the next couple of years before my condition deteriorates.
For those of you who have not made changes in your life that bring you happiness and fulfillment, what are you waiting for? Tomorrow is not promised. Even if you cannot afford to make such a drastic change in your life like I did, you should focus on eliminating as much stress in your life, and focus on the people and experiences that bring you joy. I am so glad I found this out sooner than later.
Alzheimers may steal my mind over the next few years, but I am not going to let it steal my joy in the years leading up to it. I can’t control what is going to happen to my brain but I definitely can control how I handle the situation for as long as I can. I am going to rock this Alzheimer’s disease. I am going to go kicking and screaming, and having a great time doing so!