June 15 is Release Day for Barry Petersen’s heart-wrenching book Jan’s Story. It’s no doubt that Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that robs us of our loved ones in the sunset of their lives. They slip into a netherworld that keeps the body deliciously intact while stealing the best parts – their minds and their memories.
Now, imagine this happening to your wife or husband, brother or sister when they’re in their thirties, forties, or fifties. This is the fate of Early Onset Alzheimer sufferers. It steals earlier, hits harder, and destroys faster.
Barry Petersen’s Jan’s Story is a beautiful, emotional tribute to his darling wife Jan – the lives they shared, the fun and fascinating things they crammed in before he lost her forever. This book is a “gotta have it” for anyone whose life has been touched by Alzheimer’s because Barry offers a safe haven to those who have thrust their fists into the air and questioned God for allowing their loves to be torn away from them.
Jan’s decent into Early Onset highlights the particular cruelty of this disease. Since Jan was only in her fifties, this made it nearly impossible for Barry, who held a high power career as CBS News’ Asian correspondent and was known to have to travel with very little notice. This stands in sharp contrast to Alzheimer’s, where its sufferers are older people and their caretakers are retired and can offer the full time care they need. As Barry notes, Early Onset hits in the prime of life, those who have full careers, possibly young children. Those left behind are often financially and personally ill-prepared to balance their busy lives with sudden ’round the clock care. How do they cope mentally and financially?
Barry also brings up a taboo subject that really must be brought into the light of day due to the growing prevalence of Early Onset – and that is the idea of love. We are a people not meant to be islands, so what becomes of the one left behind? Is it their fate to live their lives without love and affection, or are they allowed to find love? This is a controversial notion that, to date, no one is talking about, and Barry is the first to tackle this tough issue. How does one watch the love of his life become little more than a beautiful shell of her former self and remain sane?
The Alzheimer Association was equally touched by Barry’s story and has given their permission to put their logo on his book. We see this as the bible for Early Onset Alzheimer’s for it’s personal journey down a long dark road, and the subsequent reference notes at the back.
For a taste of Barry, I recommend you read his blog post. Then go out and buy his wonderful book.
And don’t forget to keep a box of Kleenex nearby.