By Roger Marple
Roger Marple, Alzheimer Society volunteer and person living with young onset Alzheimer’s disease
One might think that having a disease with no cure wouldn’t leave a person with much hope to draw on.
The truth is, if you’d asked me how I felt about the future after I was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my answer would have been far from ‘hopeful.’
You see, when I was first diagnosed, I spent hours on the internet reading about Alzheimer’s and dementia. I must admit, I was in a dark place at the time. I’m not even sure what I was looking for. I remember watching YouTube videos on dementia—post after post of experts giving lectures on how to manage people with dementia, and all kinds of personal videos documenting the progression of the disease in a family member.
Now, don’t get me wrong—this is very important information. But it left me feeling pretty hopeless. I was stuck in a continuous loop on what to do. I was depressed and kept thinking of what my path will be with this disease, what it will eventually lead to…
Then, one day, that changed.
I came across a post from a gentleman living in Vancouver, BC. It caught my eye right away because unlike all the other videos I’d seen, this one was by a person actually living with Alzheimer’s. Naturally, I was very curious to hear what he had to say.
He talked about the challenges he experiences and how, regardless of his struggles, he’s able to live well with dementia. I must have watched the video three times in a row. I was very pleased to see that this man is actually living well with this disease!
I had finally found what I was looking for—hope.
After that, my whole demeanor changed. It was truly an epiphany moment for me. It dawned on me that it’s not about how long we live…after all, we all live with this terminal condition called ‘life.’ For me, in that very moment, it became about how well I live my life from that point on.
And so I began researching ways to live well with dementia. I was filled with hope and excitement. My doctor and our local Alzheimer Society helped me with information on diet, exercise and other steps to live well despite my illness. After listening carefully to the advice from these experts, I can safely say my quality of life has improved. I now have the tools I need to enjoy what’s so important to us all—this thing called a full and happy life.
Of course, I’m not going to sugar coat living with dementia. At times, it can be difficult. There have been moments where I’ve been quite shaken up. But that said, when I wake up in the morning, it’s a new day. Yes, there will be bad days, but I’m confident that there will be many wonderful days ahead as well. I really can’t stress this enough. I let the bad days roll off my shoulder, keep my head up and focus on this wonderful gift we call life, which I enjoy every single day.
Why am I telling you this? I’ve seen people with dementia and their care partners stuck in a place of despair—focused on nothing but the end of days with dementia. At one point, I was there too…but not anymore. I live for the here and now. I don’t let this disease define who I am. I’m way too busy enjoying life to let that get in my way. Anyone who knows me sees me, not the disease.
You see, hope is all around us. You just have to see it.
Father’s Day is coming up. I have three grown children and one ankle biter (a.k.a. grandson.) They have always been, and continue to be, a constant source of happiness for me.
I suspect I will be enjoying many more Father’s Days to come.
Roger Marple lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta and is the proud father and grandfather of 3 grown children and one grandson. He is an avid sports enthusiast, enjoys playing tennis and golf, loves to travel and knows his way around the kitchen with a real appetite for baking. Roger worked for Alberta Health Services and has worked in supply management in the south zone for over 23 years. He also has young onset Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis in the summer of 2015, Roger has made it his mission to dispel myths about the disease and the stigma associated with dementia. He is a firm believer that you can live well with disease and is passionate about sharing his message of hope. Recently, Roger was invited to join the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s new advisory group to help raise awareness of the needs of people with dementia, including the specific needs of people living with young onset and/or early stage dementia. He is looking forward to adding his voice and experiences to the cause.