In October 2015 my life was changed forever: my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 56. Her fate was sealed as there is no cure to the debilitating disease that robs you of your mind and shaves years off of your life. At 16 years old I was told my mom wouldn’t know who I am by my 21st birthday, at best. She wouldn’t see me finish junior Hockey, graduate university, or get married. At the time I didn’t realize how much this news and her eventual missing presence in my life would impact me, however as 4 years have passed I’ve come to live and thrive with the unfortunate reality.
For the subsequent year after her diagnosis I slipped into a dark place and battled with depression and crippling anxiety. I knew I had a fantastic mom but I didn’t realize how much she impacted me as a person and the amount of love and joy she brought me until it was gone.
The saying you “don’t count the days, make the days count” became especially relevant to me as I couldn’t change my mom’s fate, but I could change how I chose to spend the days I had left with her. I redirected my mind and energy into the things I loved, such as my family, friends, school and Hockey. Just as every parents wants for their kid and as I’m sure my mom would want, I chose to become a better son by learning to appreciate my family, a better friend by focusing on creating memories and spending time with my friends, and a better student and athlete by dedicating my time and putting in the necessary work. Being around the people I love and doing the activities I’m passionate about truly brought me out of the mental rut I was in and gave me hope for a happy life.
It is still difficult to see my mom struggle but I’ve learned that it’s okay and necessary to mourn and express emotion. But I am also proud to say that I now know how to cope with sadness and that life always gets better.