Joan Sutton‘s byline has appeared in The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, The Houston Post, The Boston Herald, Cosmopolitan Magazine and the Reader’s Digest. Her commentaries have been aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as CFRB radio and her columns have been collected in three best selling books. She is also the author of A Legacy of Caring: The History of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She has served on many non-profit boards, including The Citizens Committee for New York City, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, The Banff Center and The Shaw Festival and is currently a member of the Board of Overseers of The Alzheimer’s Discovery Drug Foundation. She is a recipient of The Theodore Roosevelt Award for Public Service and is an honorary Freeman of the City of London. She lives in Manhattan and Bellport, Long Island.
Just in front of every baby boomer, there is a parent. Or parents. Like me, on the brink of old age, with all that aging brings. Let us suppose that I am your mother. Chances are, when you ask me, "Ho...
There is one thing that might be worse than being diagnosed with Alzheimer's: that would be being diagnosed with it incorrectly. Yet that can happen to someone with a hearing impairment because the symptoms, byproducts, of cognitive and hearing loss are similar.
I am growing older. But that is not so bad Because I have loved. Not always wisely And certainly, Not always well. When I consider my age and the way I have spent the years, I have some regrets: Thin...
The grief is still there. But suddenly, from somewhere, almost eighteen months later, I do now occasionally experience the unadulterated joy that I never thought I would again. To my surprise, I am no longer numb. The flowers in the park, a small child patting my dog, the flight of a bird, planning a visit with my grandson with his friends -- these things bring a lift to my heart.
Little sisters, you make your own society. If you want to pluck and plump, do it. If you don't, don't. If you love your pecs and abs, fine. If you don't mind a little jiggle, that's fine too. If you think that having a face lift will get or keep a lover, get thyself to a psychiatrist. If you don't like the look of your neck, be like me and follow the example of Nora Ephron: wear a turtleneck.
Couples who live together in intimacy take for granted the many times in a day when they touch each other, from bumping into one another in the bathroom, to fingertips brushing over a coffee cup or one cold foot seeking out the warmer one under the blanket.
I met Helen Hayes, stayed several times in her house in Cuernavaca and she was kind enough to let me interview her for The Toronto Sun. Her husband had been dead for many years when Helen told me: "I could no more have remarried than I could have been unfaithful." Helen was just one of many public figures who spoke to me about love, marriage and sex.
Once, Alzheimer's was considered to be such a hopeless diagnosis, that no one wanted to put money or scientific effort into drug discovery. Now, thanks to President Obama's National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease, and people like the Lauders, Dr. Fillit, and others in the field, that has changed.
If research money was allocated according to the burden imposed on individuals and taxpayers, Alzheimer's would be, if not at the top of the list, very near it. But research money is not allocated according to need or burden.
Fragments of self are swallowed up, bit by bit, in the voracious maw of Alzheimer's. So many pieces flew away over the years , I found myself wondering what is self? Which aspects of it are essential? What makes us human? What is left when self disappears?
How many times has that happened over the past few days? Who can count? Even strangers in the park wish me a Happy New Year. We say it without thinking, a greeting by rote, bred somewhere in our response genes. But truly, 365 days of happiness? Think about it. Is that what we truly would wish for ourselves or for others?
I am moving through what I think of as the year of the terrible firsts. The first wedding anniversary without him; the first holidays; the first family celebration; birthdays, his, mine, our children's. And I move, inexorably, to the marking of the first anniversary of his death. In many ways, these months have been filled with surprises.
Truth is, to exit life before Alzheimer's Disease takes over, one has to do it when one still has all his or her faculties, when life is still full of possibility, when days still bring joy. The temptation would be to be greedy, to take just one more day until suddenly, it's too late, the decision is not yours to make any more.
It took some of the medical establishment quite a long time to recognize the mind-body connection. Which is surprising when you consider that connection is an integral part of our vocabulary. When ch...
By now, most people recognize that the stages of grief outlined in the Kubler-Ross model are not a map. Each of us walks that lonely road in our own way. ut there is one aspect of grief that no one talks about, because it isn't "nice." But, let's be blunt: some part of grief is just plain feeling sorry for yourself.
Six months: It was exactly six months ago that my beloved husband died. There was a breath, and then, none. Life left the room, leaving behind love, loneliness, bittersweet memories, and a range of emotions. I do not mourn his death, but I do mourn his absence and I have learned that absence can be a presence.
Ten weeks have passed since my husband died. Ten weeks of a new status --widow. Widow. The word just seems to beg to be followed by a period. Period. The end: The end of years of love, intimacy, sex, companionship, friendship, partnership, marriage, the end of status -- wife.
How should we comfort the bereaved? I can only say what works for me. It may well alienate someone else. I will take hugs, absolutely. I can't get enough of them. And practical help. Bring me a casserole sized for one. Drop off some bagels. Make sure I am eating, because I am not.
I am grateful that my husband lived a long and productive life. So, please do not tell me how to grieve. Spare me the euphemisms. My husband did not "pass." He died. I have not "lost" him: I know exactly where his body is, and his spirit is with me. And. Do. Not. Speak. To. Me. Of. Closure. What a hideous word. Bring me acceptance but, never, closure.
What Nancy Reagan called the long goodbye has, for me, come to an end. My beloved husband has died, peacefully, in his own home, surrounded by people who loved him. It was indeed, a long goodbye. Seven years spent with Alzheimer's. And a final year, playing hide and seek with death.