Greg O’Brien has a story to tell to anyone who can read or listen. He tells this story with passion and an urgency that truly mirrors the compelling energy of the subject matter; Alzheimer’s disease. The statistics he shares are filled with sobering numbers such as: the number of individuals 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s will triple to 13.8 million within the next 36 years and the fact that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and that it is the only disease whose cause of death figures ARE on the rise. This is merely the tip of the iceberg here and yet this doesn’t explain why O’Brien is vigilant in his need to educate as many people as possible. Well, you are invited to read ON PLUTO: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s which O’Brien wrote about his personal experience with this disease to learn more.
O’Brien, himself, was diagnosed at age 59 with early-onset Alzheimer’s and for the past 6 years has been living with the disease and it’s resulting complications every minute of every day. In ON PLUTO: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, he tells the personal story of what it is like to literally lose your mind and to experience bits of your identity slipping away piece by piece. Not only is O’Brien’s experience a most eye-opening read but he takes us through the care giving he provided for his beloved mother as Alzheimer’s took her as well. It’s not a pretty picture, no glossing over facts, fears or sparing the reader experiences which might make this easier to take for what you get is real. This is one book that NO ONE would want to see as a reality television show, yet the sad fact is that millions are living with this experience either as the diagnosed or the observers and here O’Brien gives us taste of what it is to be both.
As I read this book I felt like I was listening to a friend bare his soul and share his “deepest and darkest” with me. While turning the pages, my own emotions ran the gamut from helplessness to anger and back again which were mirroring O’ Brien’s. I shivered at the mere thought of what it must be like to be part of his family or one of his co-workers, let alone the man himself. And yet I also found myself laughing at times because with his superb story telling ability, O’Brien became just the guy next door with whom I was trying get a handle on all of this. I wanted to champion his cause, to give him more time and the miracle of an answer; the cure that would bring him back to earth and keep him from drifting off to Pluto.
Yes, O’Brien uses the thought of being “on-Pluto” as a metaphor of what it feels like to lose yourself through Alzheimer’s. There is such a feeling of isolation when living with this disease experienced by not only the patient but the family members and friends who know that one day they will completely lose touch with their loved one. This memoir, published in 2014 through Codfish Press, is available on Amazon. And in the back of the book, O’Brien provides many resources and links to help connect us with help for those with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to guide and direct those advocates who, much like Greg O’Brien, seek to bring about an end to something that seems to have no end in sight.
Here is the link to the Tell Me a Story interview with Greg from July 17, 2015