No! You can’t.

Redskins game, Dec. 2012.

Redskins game, Dec. 2012.

If Alzheimer’s was contagious, there would be millions of people running around scared and demanding that a cure be found. There would be such a great demand for more answers and better care that change would happen. Quickly.

But it isn’t contagious, so we must fight for every single penny that is given towards finding a remedy.

I sometimes wonder if each of the people who would be diagnosed at some point in their life knew they would be the one out of every 3 seniors who would die from dementia would they quickly take up the cause?  What if their beloved children were more susceptible and more likely to inherit this death sentence? Would they stroke a check? Would they march in the streets? Would they scream and yell and curse and fight like their life depended on it?

October 2006. Brad was 2.

October 2006. Brad was 2.

What if you were told EACH of your children has a 50/50 chance of developing the first signs while you will be alive to witness their decline? And when you search the doctor for answers, begging with your tone, body language and questions for a way to keep the inevitable from happening, you are simply told there is nothing you can do. You can keep them from football, boxing and soccer. That is it.

So, you do the one thing the doctor has told you. You break your athletic sons’ heart and forbid him from participating in soccer, even though he really wants to. You forbid him the pleasure of holding a pigskin in his clutches and running for dear life towards the goal line . Even though he has told you time and time again how much he loves playing football and soccer, you hold steadfast, with your belief that this is the one only thing you can do at this stage of the game to possibly make a difference.

Brad having some fun in Dec. 2009.

Brad having some fun in Dec. 2009.


Two years ago we were able to attend a Washington Redskins game. They were playing the Baltimore Ravens so it was a big game. I had gotten tickets because Brad loves watching football. He was so excited to attend a NFL game. The fans. The chants. The chill in the air. It was a great family memory making event for us. During the game, Brad struck up a lively conversation with some gentlemen sitting behind him. One of them coached youth football in Maryland. He was impressed with the excitement and knowledge of the game Brad displayed. He asked him if he played.


“Why not? I bet you would be good.”

“My Mom won’t let me.”

“Momma, you need to let this boy play some ball. Let him come up here and play for me. I will teach him how to play.”

Yes, this perfect stranger, meaning no harm, still stings my heart and soul with his innocent remarks. Even recently,  a father of a teammate on Brads’ baseball team, whose son also plays football, he told me I should let Brad play. He educated me on how well made the helmets are now and how safe it is. It took all of my self control to remain calm and collected when I really just wanted to ask him how he would feel if the only thing he had been told by the doctor to help stave off a disease that is killing his father would be to prevent him from participating in the very thing he was demanding I let my son do? How dare them. How dare they, albeit with no ill intent, call me out as a bad Mom for not letting Brad play a sport? How dare they tell me what I should do for my son? How do you fight a society that doesn’t listen? Doesn’t look too far down the road? If this disease afflicted children or even teens, would we not have our funds for research?

Brad playing soccer before Jim was diagnosed and I was told not to let him play. Sept. 2010.

Brad playing soccer before Jim was diagnosed and I was told not to let him play. Sept. 2010.

Let me be clear here; I LOVE football. I used to love playing it in the backyard with my brother and his friends and I loved watching it. Jim and I would sit each Sunday and watch game after game. (Before kids) But as his disease has progressed and news reports have surfaced linking the sport to dementia, I have lost the thrill. I now cannot see the excitement in a great tackle but I can only envision the damage being done. I can picture the brain rattling in the helmet and wonder if it is worth it. Then I will turn to look at Jim and see the dimness in his eyes and lack of expression on his face and I know it isn’t. It isn’t worth the pain and suffering for either the player or the people who love them.

I know what it feels like to love a game . When I think back to my days playing basketball, I can still feel the thrill of running up and down the court with my teammates. I can recall how exciting it was to hear the fans, make a play and to be part of the game. It is exhilarating. It is challenging. Being a member of the team is a feeling of security and family that you don’t get anywhere else. Whether it be basketball, football, baseball, or soccer, being part of the squad is a great privilege and teaches life lessons on teamwork and hard work. Who am I to deny my precious son this opportunity? Yes, he gets to play baseball and basketball. We all know, though, that the thing you want the most is the thing you can’t have. So, while he is a great joy to watch on the diamond and the court, he longs to run the gridiron and the field.

I will stay strong in my steadfast denial of his joy, but it will continue to break my spirit one comment at a time.

Brad at the Duke/Carolina football game, Nov. 2013

Brad at the Duke/Carolina football game, Nov. 2013

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (4)

4 Responses to “No! You can’t.”

  1. Kimberly Smith says:

    Karen, I have the same opinion about football. Our 13 year old played for two years, with several injuries and they are really pushing him to play again. But, he’s afraid to play, because of all of the media attention linking head injuries to memory disorders. We watched an interview with professional football player Brett Favre, who is suffering from memory loss, due to head injuries from playing ball. When asked if he had a son, would he let him play ball and he said no. I agree, it’s not worth it. My son played center mostly, because of his size. He’s nearly six feet tall and they are really putting the pressure on us. But, like you I’m living in this nightmare of a Early Onset Alzheimer’s with my husband and my Mother was diagnosed two months ago with Frontotemporal dementia and being a full time caregiver to both of them, plus being a full time Mom, is really taking a toll on my health. I know it’s not contagious, but what are the chances my husband and Mother both are sick? It’s just unreal to me. I believe a lot of it’s coming from our food chain, food additives, GMO’s, etc. I’ve written our representatives, only to receive letters back with empty promises I’m afraid. I wish I could do more, but at times I feel like I can barely breath, due to the stress and anxiety of being a caregiver. My prayer is a cure will soon be found to stop this terrible epidemic. Take care. Hugs, k

  2. Melissa says:

    Maybe I’m sleep deprived today but am I reading that your doctor said your child has a 50% chance of developing early Alzheimer’s?! That seems awfully high to me. Scary!

  3. Lisa says:

    I’ve often thought that I’m glad my son never wanted to play football when he was young. It has to be so hard to tell your son he can’t play. Hugs to you

  4. Lee Ann says:

    Karen, I fully support your decision about contact sports. You are Mom and have his best interests at heart, and his longevity in this world. so I am not trying to change your mind, because as his Mom, you are doing what you believe is best.

    I have been a long term care/hospice nurse for over 22 years. Especially in the old timers that suffered through the depression and the wars, they have a lot of regrets;. Sure they go on and live their life, but had wishes of what they could have done, should have done, etc. We all can assume that Brad is never going to be a pro football player, probably not a college player, more likely high school player. I’ve probably seen 1000 people die, knew them quite intimately, and I believe that no one should regret not doing something, we should all do what is important to us, enjoy our lives and live it fully as long as we can. God Forbid if one of your children does get AD, but whether they do, or not, what is important is that they live their life fully, enjoying things, Its not the quantity of the days, its the quality of those days.

    Not comparing anyone to a dog, that’s for sure. I grew up with a hunting dog. He loved to hunt, he lived to hunt. When he was 10 years old, he wouldn’t hunt, so my Dad took him to the vet. He’d had a stroke, and the vet said that if he went hunting, it would probably kill him. So the dog lived another 10 years, and every time we left the city, the dog got excited, cried, drooled, whined, he wanted to go hunting. I told my Dad, “Why not just let him hunt even if it shortens his life?” My Dad always said,”No, because we don’t want him to die. We want to keep him with us.” So every time we left town, the dog cried, whined. I always thought that the quality of his first ten years was so much better compared to the second ten years. Must be why I like working hospice. We got terminally ill people out on horseback, etc. whatever they wanted to do. We encouraged them to do what they wanted, even if that included smoking like a chimney and drinking shots of vodka.

    Soccer is not such a contact sport as football. Maybe a discussion with your local football coach, where he can explain the newer helmets and promise to take your boy out immediately if he gets a bad tackle.

    I have a good friend that died of a brain aneurysm at 43. He had as full a life at 43, as some people do at 80. He did a lot of cool things,, sky diving, mountain climbing, fast cars, lots of fun times. The thing that gave us comfort was that he had done lots of quality things, instead of worrying about quantity.

    I hope your children, like mine, have a bucket list a mile long and they get to do every one of the things on the list. Just my .02. ((hugs))

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