Myriam Marquez doesn’t let anything get her down, not even being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her journey with Alzheimer’s began like many others. “When I turned 60, I thought I was safe and then I made it to 62,” said Myriam. “I came to a four-way stop near my home and I didn’t know where I was. In that instant I knew I had Alzheimer’s, because I saw it in my father and I saw it in my cousins.”
Myriam saw her early diagnosis as a way to get involved and help others diagnosed with dementia access a wealth of information about programs and organizations trying to gain an understanding of the disease.
To say that Myriam has been involved is a bit of an understatement. She is an active spokesperson with the Alzheimer’s Association, attends support groups, and worked on the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, recently appointed Myriam to a two-year term on the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.
“It’s a privilege because I’ll be representing so many people who have Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” said Myriam. She hopes others will share their experiences with her and she will be able to speak on their behalf. “If there wasn’t somebody on the advisory council who is experiencing the symptoms and the disease, they’re only getting three-quarters of the information they need. I believe including someone who has Alzheimer’s and is able to communicate well about what is going on is important.”
For Myriam, being involved is how to get answers. “It is crucial that the work get done because, as baby boomers age, we are going to have more and more people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.” Questions like what kind of services are provided and how much money will be invested into research for a cure are areas of huge concern for her and need to be addressed.
Myriam has been lucky to maintain her independence and SHAG (Senior Housing Assistance Group) has provided her with an atmosphere that allows for fun, making friends, and being active in the community. From fitness and yoga to knitting classes and speaking at advocacy events, her plate stays full.
Myriam tries many things to help slow her progression. “I do aromatherapy,” she says. “There are certain aromas that I sniff every morning. The scent goes through the olfactory passage and into the brain. I think that’s another reason why I have stayed in the early stage for six years.
“I follow the Mediterranean diet,” continues Myriam. “I certainly take my meds as directed. And socialization is extremely important. People who isolate themselves decline much more quickly.”
Myriam has also taken advantage of the resources and activities that the Alzheimer’s Association has that are specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. She attends Alzheimer’s Cafes, the Seattle Zoo Walk, and other support groups that have been extremely beneficial as she navigates through this process.
Myriam lives a full life. She married, had kids, went to law school, and travelled, so she has experienced things that many never will. Like most people, Myriam has also seen some hard times but she always looks to the brighter side of life. “You know, I believe Einstein proved that everything is energy and what we think with our brain and what we do with our mouth and our body creates your own energy. So, if you have negative thoughts, negative things are going to happen. It’s a belief, not a fact, but it has been proven to me over and over again,” said Myriam.
Myriam is a prime example of what living life should look like. Alzheimer’s disease may look like the end of the road, but it doesn’t have to be. Becoming informed about the disease, resources available and getting involved can make such a difference on how one lives out the rest of their life.
Myriam wants to live her life in a positive way that makes a difference. She hopes to leave her mark and be remembered as a person who laughs and as someone who did all she could as an individual. She seems to be living up to that legacy just fine.
Lauren Corley is the communications and marketing volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and a soon-to-be graduate of Eastern Washington University with her degree in Public Relations. For more information about Alzheimer’s Association programs and services, visit alzwa.org or call the 24/7 Helpline: 1-800-272-3900.