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I remember the first time I saw my dad’s face after it was disfigured by disease. His right eyelid was closed, his mouth drooped, and the skin of his cheek leaked off his face as if it would billow in a good wind. We all assumed he’d had a stroke in the night, but his other symptoms didn’t match. Myasthenia gravis, a rare degenerative disease, struck out of nowhere. Gravis. From the Latin “grave.” My dad was gravely ill. It happened the day after he and I drove from New York to San Francisco in my little red Sentra. I’d met a guy on an airplane, quit my job, and moved on a hunch that it was love. My dad helped with the drive. Back then, my mom’s memory was just starting to slip. She’d forget words sometimes. “Put that device in the cupboard,” she’d say, for example, pointing to a box of tea. Or, “I need a head wrap,” when she meant to say “hat.” Alzheimer’s tiptoes slowly and relentlessly, but in my mom’s case, it never stole her sweet disposition. At least she never had to know about my breast cancer. By the time I was diagnosed, she didn’t recognize my face or remember what cancer is. These diseases suck. So many illnesses ravage and disfigure our bodies, eating their victims from the inside out. Brain diseases go after our minds, mocking our mental acuities and reminding us that even the brilliant are not immune from nature.
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2 comments

  1. Madlen Connor says:

    This was a good and easy to follow read. I am thankful she wrote about her experience, and her situation with mother and father and what a great help her Husband, or love partner is. No drugs for depression, exercise makes us feel better. I hope she keeps getting better with less drugs. Exercise is number one and saying prayers and eating well are two and three.

    • Nancy Brier says:

      I often write about personal issues in this column – it sort of comes with the territory of agreeing to provide a patient perspective on disease. I genuinely hope that readers can benefit from learning about what has worked, and not worked, for me in cancer treatment and all its ramifications. And I couldn’t agree more that the best remedies for depression – and so many other maladies – are exercise, prayer, and nutrition. Thanks, Madlen, for sharing your input.

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