You come to realize in life that there are no definitive answers to the most puzzling of questions. It makes you second guess yourself and others.
I truly don’t know when I first started showing signs. My husband and I were living in North Carolina at the time and I remember in the early part of 2010, when I was just 40 years old, that things just seemed off. I was always well-organized, efficient, smart, great with numbers and remembered most everyone and every event in my life thus far. Later that year I mentioned something to my primary care doctor that I was having a hard time remembering even the simplest of things. I was extremely fortunate to be referred to a very intelligent, experienced and sincere neurologist. My neurologist started, what I thought was to be only a few annoying months of rigorous testing, turned into the start of a nightmare of becoming a “guinea pig” because of my young age. My dr was ruling out this and that. I can’t even begin to tell you all the types of tests I went through. Blood work (weekly, then monthly, then every few months, to present day – back to monthly); cat scans; MRI’s; PET scans; EKGs; EEGs; echocardiogram; sleep studies, and even more that I can’t remember. At first they just thought it was an overload of stress due to my job. So my dr started me on monthly B12 shots; vitamin D supplements and referrals.
Around the beginning of 2011, they gave me a broad diagnosis of an “a neurodegenerative disease.” I continued to work, though having to combine additional time with even more doctor appointments, check ups, and evaluations.
In the summer of 2011 my symptoms were getting worse. I would get lost driving from work to home. I couldn’t find my way out of a Wal-Mart or our local grocery store. I would call my husband frantically to try to explain to him where I thought I was (town, store, road, etc) and wait for him to find me and get me back home. I was also starting to show memory loss in everyday routine things, like doing the laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, and even taking a shower. I knew what had to be done, but couldn’t connect on the “how” to get the task accomplished. There were times I would take our dogs for a walk, and couldn’t find the path back home (we lived in a relatively small area too). Another day, my husband would arrive home from work, and my car would be in the driveway still running, and me in the house, just sitting on the couch. The car had been running for hours. I had forgotten to turn it off. As each night when I went to work (I was a corrections officer at a medium custody male state prison working the night shift, where my husband was an officer at also, but worked the day shift) I would drive to work, go through our security protocol to enter the prison, go to line up, try to remember to find my post I was assigned to that night and then try to remember just the simplest of tasks I had to do as an officer for the next 12 hours of duty. Needless to say, where I worked, the type of work, the people I worked with, and the inmates I was in charge of – did not mix well with a person whose memory was just a touch off.
I remember the night, though not exactly the date, but it was in the fall of 2011, when the “something off” was much more. Previously, I had a heart attack in January of 2008. A hereditary defect they found and I was on a medication for my heart ever since plus Nitro pills to take as needed. Well, this particular night, I couldn’t remember my fellow officer’s names (whom I had worked with for quite a while); I couldn’t remember even the very next steps I were to take in my job. I started to have severe chest pain and sweating and nausea. My fellow officer, and friend, got me to medical, and they called an ambulance. I had another heart attack. From there in the hospital after being admitted, the doctors noticed the slightest of things weren’t right with me. My husband filled them in on my past test results, diagnosis, and symptoms. I was then referred to Duke Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. (which was hours away from home). That became my outpatient “home” for the next year.
This would be the beginning of a downhill spiral ~ a dark hole that I thought I would never be able to crawl out of ever again. I was diagnosed with Early Onset of Alzheimer’s. I lost everything! Now, when I say everything, people assume material things. I wish it was that easy. They told me I could never work again – I was working my dream job, a career I worked so hard to obtain, to just have taken away from me in a moment. Then they told me I could never drive again. I didn’t only have a driver’s license, but a Federal Class A CDL License with HAZMAT endorsements. Another thing I had worked so hard to obtain and endeared as much as my career. Then they took my independence. I could no longer legally make my own decisions, financially, personally, nor health wise. I hit rock bottom – emotionally and physically!
… to be continued