Saturday, April 03, 2010

Guest Blogger Joe Sivak MD

I would like to thank my friend Joe for the privilege of being asked to be a guest writer on his blog. In the big scheme of things I have known Joe for only a short time through the wonderful technology of the Internet. I started blogging about eight months ago and soon found Joe's blog. I immediately resonated with so much of the feeling and emotion and spirit with which Joe writes. I felt sort of a strange kind of kindred spirit.
It is sort of that weird feeling, where you never met someone but when you connect with them, you feel that connection was always there and it is sort of timeless.
You see Alzheimer's was the thing that connected us. Joe has the disease, my mother was diagnosed with the disease in 1979, when most people had not heard of it. I started a book about my journey many years ago and finally finished it this year. It is titled When Can I Go Home? I asked Joe to read the book and tell me what he thought. I knew it would be hard, and I debated a long time. I didn't want to make Joe feel sad or mad, but his review in a way was the most important one I wanted. It was more important than if I could get Publisher's Weekly or New York Times or any high profile review. Why was that?
I wanted to show that people with AD are people who count, with thoughts feelings, and a spirit. No matter how far the disease gets, there is a person. The point of Joe's blog and the point of my book is that we should never, ever cast aside any human being just because they have AD. The truth of that matter is: is that now matter how far we think we have come as a progressive, altruistic, advanced and humane society, we have a very long way to go when it comes to people living with Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's initially brought us together, but immediately after that the connection was fundamentally not about the disease, but just about two guys, Joe and me who actually share a lot of the same fundamental views and insights. And Yes, Joe has tremendous insights that we can all learn a lot from.
I am a psychiatrist, but Joe didn't not hold that against me. Neither of us particularly like psychiatrists. Joe instinctively knew and knows that is just what I do professionally, sometimes in that realm I can help people and sometimes I can't, sometimes all I can do is be there as a human being yet in that pretense of a professional realm.
Joe said he only read a couple books in his life, mine and Bill Cosby's Fatherhood. So I was indeed in good company!
Joe knew and talked about the disease, he knows first hand better than anyone, how Alzheimer's is two deaths. The disease taking the person's mind and the physical death. Joe and I know the disease tries to take the person's spirit. some days it feels like it does, but it never really can or will. You see Joe's spirit is there and always will be. You see it in those faces in those pictures he posts, it is in those grand kids. Those faces, those smiles, when you see it in his family and grandchildren you see Joe's spirit and his goodness, and the disease never ever can or will take that away. That lives on forever, that spirit is eternal. Take a look at his pictures, it is there. You see Joe's essence.
Joe asked for a picture of my mother. He posted it on his blog. Her name was Madeline. She is physically gone from the earth, but Joe knows that we never forget, and her essence lives on through her kids and grand kids, and the disease does not get to take that. People like Joe are a gift to the human race, he reminds us to never forget.
In a way Joe knew the pain I still feel from my mother's disease, he sort of offered me a kind of spiritual absolution, a setting free if you will. I never really considered or expected that, but Joe knew. I hope in some way although I know it was hard fir him to get through, that in reading the book, somehow our connection set him free just a little. He knows I will never cast him or anyone with the disease aside. Joe is not an Alzheimer's victim, Joe is just a guy, a human being who happens to be living with the disease. We can all learn a lot from his writing, it should be required reading in schools. He is tough and smart, he is human. We all have a little bit of Joe in us. He will keep blogging and writing, it is not about the words it is about his essence and his spirit. He will keep loving life and hating the disease, just like me. He will love his family and his love will go on generation after generation.
Thank you Joe for this honor to post on your blog. Your courage and dignity and humanness is there for everyone.
Joseph J. Sivak MD

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