Only days after turning fifty, my wife Martha was blindsided with news that she has Alzheimer’s disease. We felt as though we were shoved out of a plane 10,000 feet up, without parachutes. Until then Martha had been a spirited mother and a civic activist. I published a regional business magazine. Our lives would never be the same.
At the time, in 1997, less than one percent of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s were under age sixty-five. Why was Martha? That was just the first of a blizzard of questions that weighed heavily on Martha and me. What causes Alzheimer’s was not known then. It still isn’t. And modern medicine still has no cure.
Our story is one of shock, grief, and pain over what doctors say is a degenerative, irreversible disease. And of our anguish over an uncertain future – for Martha as victim, for me as caregiver, and for our three young children.
But as described in my book--A Path Revealed: How Hope, Love, and Joy Found Us Deep in a Maze Called Alzheimer's--I came to realize our story is not about a grim disease and its insidious movement. Nor in its darkest moments is our story about hopelessness.
Our story is about a path that emerged in the darkest of hours, a path that for us was neither planned nor foreseen. It’s the story about the inner struggles and insights that emerged when I was compelled to lead Martha and our children through this life-altering quandary. At the suggestion of a Protestant minister and friend, our search began when Martha and I visited a Catholic nun and a monk in the hills and back roads of Kentucky. In my scramble for answers, I devoured scores of medical and spiritual books; flew halfway around the world to Sydney and back; spent dozens of weekends at a nearby monastery; and landed all alone one week in Thomas Merton’s cabin.
My name is Carlen Maddux, and I am by training, career, and instinct a journalist and editor. The only way I know to share this most intimate journey is to bring a journalist’s eye and style to a story that’s filled with spiritual breakthroughs, fears, failures, heart-warming encounters, and thought-provoking revelations. Sixteen years later, this path continues to unfold.