Thieves in the Night: A Fate Worse than Death

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When I started writing The Dying Times almost two years ago, my subconscious played a bigger role than I realized. In imaging our personal horrors, we often think about a terrible end – the horrible death that comes as a result of whatever caused it. In the backdrop of our minds, though, lies the place where the culmination of everything surrounding that death exists. Though I write about the dead rising in the series, the fear lies more in acquiring the disease than death itself.

One of the most frightening things I can imagine is being out of control of one’s fate, and it doesn’t take fiction to take us there – there are examples within the real world we can draw from. A good friend of mine has been battling a dangerous, vicious, and very progressive form of brain cancer. When I come around him, I try to focus on the good things, make positive conversation, and fill him with as much hope as I can. His disease is considered incurable; there is a chance they can remove the tumors and allow him to recover, but the procedures are dangerous. Though my heart is breaking on the inside with equal measures of hope and despair, I stay positive: if he has any chance, it’s only be keeping positive and fighting for every inch.

Getting back to the original statement, we have fears we may not even realize. The #1 thief in the night disease – and probably the closest to the virus from my books – would have to be Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most upsetting and terrible thing I’ve ever seen, a true and vicious killer of your entire life. It steals your ability to speak and understand the people around you, your ability to reason logically and make plans, and even your deepest-held memories.

I’m still young, but I can only imagine the kinds of memories I will make as my wife and I grow older, as my daughter (and hopefully other children) grow up, and as we take that walk through life. Even though I’m in my late twenties, I recognize that all of that could be stolen away by a terrible, incurable disease in my golden years. For me, to get Alzheimer’s disease is to acquire an illness that is a fate worse than death – first it takes everything from you, inflicting great pain and suffering on both you and your family, and, eventually, it takes your life. It is a slow killer, taking about 8 to 10 years to come to its full realization. After it’s done taking everything else that you treasure from your life, it takes your breathing and stops your heart.

I’ve been thinking about making a post like this for quite some time, but I held back because I didn’t want to bring anyone down or rain on any parades. I try to remain positive, but these diseases will never be cured without awareness. Ignoring it will not make it go away, so I encourage everyone to increase awareness when they have an opportunity to do so. I also encourage everyone to put themselves in the position of someone who has no hope of the future, someone who is afflicted with such a condition, for they will not have hope or a future if we ignore their suffering.

Don’t forget about the caregivers, either – their burden is great, and their strength and will seems to be miraculous and unwavering at times. Surviving someone afflicted with a terminal disease is one thing, but being there to take care of them through all of the bad times is the highest representation of love and affection you could ever show for someone else, not only because of how difficult it is, but because it is such a thankless and stressful job. For those caring for a terminally-ill friend or family member, I end with a ‘Thank you for everything you do’.

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  1. Kelley  October 2, 2011

    You are so right about Alzheimers. I lost my Mom to it a week ago. I cant believe more people are not talking about this disease. Its horrific. It hurts not only the person but the family too. My Dad and I were flung into instant caregiver mode. It wasnt easy. Your caring for someone you love so much and they dont know you anymore. Heartbreaking!! Then there is the cost. To hire caregivers for a few hours a day while we worked cost $1400 a month and thats no including supplies, food for the feeding tube etc.. You go broke while the person you love deteriorates. Everyone should know about this and the symptoms to look out for.
    Thanks Brian for touching on this sad subject.

    Kelley B

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    • Brian  October 2, 2011

      Thank you for sharing your story, Kelly. For the caretakers of victims of this terrible disease, there is seldom any relief. People like you are everyday heroes to me, called upon during a harsh and unforgiving time to confront a vicious disease head on. Thank you again.

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