Recently, on a cold but beautiful day in Wichita , Kansas , my husband and I were given a great opportunity to tell how we together live joyfully as a couple with me having a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment. Initially, I thought when asked, how could I describe living with this condition each day, and make it a happy scenario , when most people only think of the negative stigmas associated with this dreaded condition.
I thought long but not hard on the answer . I thought I would simply tell how it affects me daily. My whole family life seemed to change overnight on 3/23/2016. After almost three years of testing, seeing several physicians and almost giving up hope on ever getting a correct diagnosis. My doctors suspected everything from Menopausal issues to Thyroid deficiency and of course depression. I was referred to a Neurologist who again stated he wasn’t sure what was the problem , but he was willing to look into it because as he stated he knew there was a change in my cognitive skills . He ordered an MRI and other tests and referred me on to a Neuropsychologist . Several months later, my husband and I was called into the Neurologist office and given the diagnosis . It was Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Even though it’s been nearly four years since that dreaded diagnosis. I can still remember almost every detail of that day. As the doctor gave us the diagnosis, I can still remember hearing nothing but the hands of the large clock ticking on the wall. I felt as if I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone and any minute I would wake up and the dream would be over. But unfortunately , this dream continues and it doesn’t seem like I will ever wake up .
So often when people meet me, the first thing that’s said to me after hearing my story is, you don’t look or act like someone with Dementia. I always smile and say, and what exactly am I suppose to look like. Because I am a part of the group I call the “5 percenters”, which means about five percent or 200,000 under the age of 65 now living with some form of Younger Onset Dementia.
As someone living each day with this condition, I silently think of this disease and the effects and hardships it has already done to my family. The changes that occur within a household when someone is diagnosed can be very taxing to a family that depends on everyone to do their part to keep things running smoothly. Weather it is contributing to the household financial well being, household chores, or something as simple as walking the family pets on a regular basis.
All these things changed immediately after the diagnosis because I immediately retired from my job of twenty years at Geico and became a housewife. It’s strange to say that because sometimes I think my still employed husband does more housework than I.
I can’t give enough praise to Virous. From the very moment we were given the diagnosis, he has always been by my side. He frequently states that God has placed him on this earth strictly to take care of me. The little things are what means a lot to me in our care partner relationship. What always makes me so excited about speaking about my care partner, is I am aware of how hard he works to maintain our household. He works a full time job at sixty plus hour day week and still manages to come home and make sure all my needs are taken care of. On Wednesday and Sunday which are his days off, Virous uses the days to take me riding and taking me places such as Atlanta so that I can get out of the house. We have rearranged our living area space at home so that we can spend more time watching television. I could go on and on, about what he does. But the most special thing he does is letting me know that I am special to him and he will be there for me.
To keep me busy, I am very busy with my local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I spend my time assisting with health fair and telling my story to whomever is interested through health fairs and meetings. I was selected to serve on the National Early Stage Advisory Group to help raise concern and awareness about dementia.
This is what living with a cognitive impairment looks like for me. Even though I have been diagnosed, I focus on the fact that each day is a new day and I look forward to enjoying each moment of what time I have.
My motto for living is” If when I wake up in the morning and I know my name and I know what today is, It’s going to be a great day.
Arthena and Virous have two daughters, Brittani Caston-Mitchell and Brianna Caston. I have recently been blessed to also have a grandson Avery Carter Mitchell.
To learn more about the programs and services available through the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, visit alz.org/georgia