Saturday, 7 February 2009

Terry Pratchett

This week I watched the first of two programmes by Terry Pratchett about Alzheimer’s Disease, a rare form of which he has been diagnosed as suffering from the early stages. It was one of the most heartening things I’ve seen on TV in a long time, and at the same time one of the most depressing.

Sorry Terry, I know you don’t like being described as ‘brave’ for doing the programme, but I thought the whole idea of letting cameras invade your life at such a time was heroic. It’s all very well for the Lifeboatman to say ‘I was just doing my job out there in that force12’ but that doesn’t make him any less of a hero.

Terry’s books have already been enough to immortalise him in my eyes (they occupy two of the nine shelves that I allow myself on public display.) But letting a camera crew follow you around for a year and not only witness your sudden inability to tie your tie but hear your thoughts on it, that is something special.

The programme frightened me. Sir Terry Pratchett (he was knighted in 1998 for services to literature) is the same age as me. When people younger than me die of cancer it doesn’t frighten me. Cancer is one of those things that can strike at any time and I know it is in the lap of the Gods whether I get it or not. But Alzheimer’s was something that happened to old people – not people my age. And then I realised.... Oops.

I retired from work years ago as a result of my neurological disorder which was not only causing physical problems but also stress as I tried to do a day’s work that varied from 9 to 14 hours in a fairly responsible position. Add stress to the pain, exhaustion and ‘clumsiness’ of the neuro issues and it was time to retire. The stress caused concentration troubles, memory lapses, short temper, inability to sign my name consistently, sudden inability to spell common words, and various other problems. In fact, the same things from which Terry Pratchett is now suffering. He knows it’s Alzheimer’s because the brain scan showed it. Most of those issues have stayed with me. I had assumed mine was still stress but what if were Alzheimer’s. That is too awful to contemplate.

I have a feeling there will be lot of people of my generation rushing off to their doctors asking for a brain scan.... Meanwhile I shall stay well away from brain scanners and just assume mine is stress. When I can’t tie my tie or button up a button I shall ask for Jo’s help as usual and pretend I never saw the programme.


  1. I wasn't able to watch the programme as I was working. Bu, I believe you are right to be positive and assume its stress, even better don't think about it at all. Just enjoy your life and live it to the full.

  2. Scriptor, all I have is a joke we say in my family, "I suffer from some-timers, not all-timers."

    I am sure yours is stress related, stress can do a number on the body, and doctors cannot even begin to fathom how deep reaching it is.

    ~All my best,

  3. I prefer to think of my lapses as 'blonde moments'...

    I do not want to think about a future obscured by them 'though, same as you, Sir...

  4. I have another friend that jumps to all sorts of conclusions after reading or hearing about something of which she shares a couple of symptoms. She is healthy as a horse!
    Judging by your blogs...I'd say you're fine! Have a great day!

  5. Stress has a huge impact on memory. So does being too busy. I was seriously concerned I had some sort of mental/neurological issue last year, but my doctor said, "No, you're just way, way too busy." I still forget how to spell simple words, and sit at the keyboard feeling stupid and a little scared. They eventually come to me, though sometimes I double-check myself at an online dictionary site, and I'm 42. After I dropped reviewing and other optional tasks, and after being medicated for severe depression, things got better. Try taking more breaks and resting, and if an activity makes you too busy decrease or drop it altogether. Don't be overly worried. You certainly sound fine to me!

  6. Your ramblings are good, and even as a 55 year old I can relate, but my favorite part of your post was your conclusion: "When I can’t tie my tie or button up a button I shall ask for Jo’s help as usual and pretend I never saw the programme."

    I'd call that male-pattern-denial, and it works for millions!

  7. I am soon to be 53 (on the 17th) and have recently been experiencing the inablity to spell words that I have never had problems with.. I have always been a top-notch speller. I have also been switching the order of the letters in a word... very often. I am also very clumsy (never have been) and am having a hard time remembering various things that I really need to remember.. I am so scared but when I mention all this to family or friends, they scoff and laugh...

  8. Dear Anonymous. I know it can be hard for friends and family to take these things serously and the standard response from similar aged folk is to come up with things that they've done as examples of why it's not unusual.

    Terry is very young to get alzheimer's and I should thing 53 would be quite exceptional. But if things have reached thet stage where you think it is unusual I would go and see a doctor and ask their advice.

    I know that stress often creates similar symptoms and, of course, the more one worries about the possibilty of alzheimer's the more one gets stressed.

    If you don't go to the doctor I think the best approach may be to just give yourself a mental kick each time it happens and say 'Silly Me!'

    Eithew way, I hope it sorts itself out for you,


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