For those that aren’t familiar with “Still Alice”, the plot summary (taken from Amazon):
Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…
“Still Alice” is one of my all time favorite books. It’s exceptionally well written. It’s thought provoking. It touches on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, because so many of my clients, or my clients’ loved ones, have Alzheimer’s disease. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me think. So going into the movie, I set myself up to be disappointed with it. Most movies that follow books just aren’t as good.
I’m happy to report that the movie version of Still Alice was every bit as good as the book. If not better. Julianne Moore did an exceptional job of portraying Alice. The supporting family members – particularly Lydia – gave us a realistic impression of the feelings and frustrations that family members dealing with a parent/spouse having memory loss must feel. For the viewer, it wasn’t just like watching a movie about someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was so much more. It was like we – the audience – were experiencing the things that Alice – and her family members – were feeling. Sadness. Embarrassment. Fear. Dismay. Anger. Even happiness. The viewer truly experienced it all. I knew that I would get emotional and cry during the movie. What I wasn’t prepared for was the whole theater to be in tears, one person so overwhelmed she was choked up and sobbing.
As I sit here now and think about why the movie evoked such strong emotions from all the viewers, I think it’s because all of us see ourselves in the movie. We worry that one day we might be Alice . We worry that one day it will be our spouse or parents or sister that get the disease. And with the prevalence of Alzheimer’s – an estimated 5.1 million Americans having the disease, and more people expected to get it with the aging population, and no cure* – we are right to worry. Many, if not most, of us already know someone who had or has Alzheimer’s. And it is a horrible, terrifying disease to watch a loved one deal with.
My favorite quote from Still Alice, because it is a reminder that today matters – whether we are the lucky ones who are healthy or the ones who aren’t so lucky:
“And I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease will not be bargained with…My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today doesn’t matter.”
Live in the moment. Make today matter.
*Statistics from www.alzfnd.org