One … single … solitary … word.
It's a word that can send our hopes soaring to the sky and just as effortlessly crashing on the rocks of despair and misery.
The word is Cure.
It's a word for which we, with Alzheimer's, are in agonizing pursuit.
For roughly the last century, we have watched in helpless disarray as this insidious disease escapes our chase of that coward called Al, that little rat bastard, the name I've put on the face of the slimy creature.
This is a maddening crusade because Al slips away under the guise of dementia and dozens of other aliases. At almost any stop along the research trail, the scenario is frustratingly familiar. Breathless announcements of long-awaited triumph.
"Did you hear they've finally cracked the code?" But the euphoria is inevitably short lived.
Something is not right after all. The alleged Cure does not hold up on testing. So then, back to the lab.
Cue the white mice. Prepare the brain probe.
The headlines and TV spots don't always carry cautionary warnings. Over time, I have become wary of reports that the Cure has been found at last. And with every false alarm, you can hear Al slithering away. "Catch me if you can, sucker!"
The most recent headline was "Early tests raised Alzheimer's hopes despite recent failures."
An experimental Alzheimer's drug showed positive results and raised hopes anew that pharmaceutical companies were moving closer to a medicine that could finally disrupt the course of the disease's memory robbing "even though a string of failure shadowed the efforts."
What baffles researchers' efforts is Al's elusiveness. They throw money at him at every turn, millions and millions of dollars, but to no avail. It's not for lack of trying. At any stop along the research trail, there may be as many as a dozen and a half tests in various stages.
I feel for them, the pursuers of Al. They are hope. Our only hope. Frankly, it is difficult to remain steadfast. The Cure requires Herculean patience, but I vow to fight to the bitter end.
They know. Give us time, the researchers say. Funny thing is, that's all we've got.
You know the drill by now: Resist. Persist. Never, ever give up.
In my mind, I play games with the Cure. I envision a lab technician drops a beaker of some exotic drug, the glass shattering on the floor, splashing behind a desk, there to merge with another drug. Eureka!
If only it were so easy.
Suddenly, I can't tell time. It's Al, I know. I have an increasingly difficult time deciphering the hands on a clock. It's all a jumble. Is that 2:31, or 5:15, or 2:30? Worse, is it a.m. or p.m.? I assume it is the handiwork of Al, drop-kicking some wiring in my brain.
Beyond that, I find it increasingly mystifying to deal with numbers in general. So if you couple this with the dastardly tremors, throw in lack of depth perception, I can give you a dazzling vaudeville routine.
In case you are keeping track Al, I ain't down yet.
I went to the ear doctor the other day.
I feared I was losing my hearing. It felt like I was in solitary confinement. WHAT? Probably one more indignity by Al, but to my great relief, the doctor said I had a wax buildup.
You can have that without having Alzheimer's.
Up yours, Al!
Retired Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon dictated this article about his ongoing fight against Alzheimer's. It was edited for style and clarity by assistant sports editor Gary Miles.