By Adam Rowe and Howard Fillit, MD
If the analysts are right, this Sunday Julianne Moore will win an Academy Award for her performance in "Still Alice." Moore is heartbreakingly brilliant in the film, starring as a middle-aged linguistics professor coming to the slow and painful realization that she has early-onset Alzheimer's.
It's a powerful, important performance, bringing into focus a devastating disease that is all too often hidden from sight. But it's also an opportunity for Moore, who absorbed so many real stories in preparation for this all-consuming role, to do something more.
When she's handed her trophy, she'll be speaking directly to hundreds of millions of people around the world. During those two minutes, Moore has a chance to be the voice for more than 44 million people living with Alzheimer's.
Imagine if she said...
Picture for a moment that you were handed a script for the first time. You read it and reread it until you have it down, just as you've done your entire career. The cameras role, but you forget a line. Then another. And another. And another. We've all done it. We rarely do anything in one take. Eventually, we get it right.
Now imagine a teacher, lawyer, doctor, policeman...a bus driver, waiter, chef, architect...What happens when they forget their lines? There is no second take. There are no edits.
That's what it's like to have Alzheimer's. A bad take that only gets worse.
But if we invest in research, we can end this disease. We can make every take better.
What an incredible impact that speech could have. Moore wouldn't need to mention a charity. She wouldn't have to ask for money. The simple act of reminding younger viewers that one day their mind may be a little worse than the day before could go so far.
We cannot eradicate this disease without awareness and education. And that starts with raising our voices and erasing the many misconceptions that surround this epidemic.
That Alzheimer's impacts only the very old.
That Alzheimer's is a "natural" part of aging.
The truth is that the circle of those impacted by Alzheimer's -- patients, children, spouses, caregivers, friends -- spans generations.
Is it too much to ask of Moore? Eddie Redmayne, who has been speaking loudly about his connection with ALS patients, doesn't seem to think so. And it wasn't too much for Tom Hanks, advocating on behalf of AIDS awareness following his performance in "Philadelphia."
Please, post this on your Facebook walls. Share this with your followers on Twitter. Maybe, just maybe, Moore will see it and reconsider her position.
We may all outlive our brains one day.
Howard Fillit, MD, a geriatrician, neuroscientist and leading expert in Alzheimer's disease, is the Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF). Adam Rowe, a donor and friend of the ADDF, is a 20-year media sales and marketing professional who has held positions at Telerep, Viacom and AOL/Time Warner. He is currently Director of Media Sales at Time Warner Cable News/NY1.