As a determined woman, activist, mother and writer, I've learned to stay humble (kids help you be that), work hard and to never take "no" for an answer.
It's been 26 years since my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This was the first time in my life that I had to accept "no, there is no cure" as the only answer available.
At that time, I barely knew what the disease was. What I did know is there was no cure. My mother, this elegant lioness, was reduced to a glazed-eyed woman in a wheelchair. I watched helplessly as her mind, her dignity, her soul and finally her body succumbed to this killer. I thought my mom was invincible, but she was no match for Alzheimer's.
By the time my mom died, people had forgotten her. She was merely a footnote. The spiral of Alzheimer's had taken not only her memory, but also the memory that people had of her.
This year, 15.4 million caregivers in the United States continue to face this same uphill battle against a disease with no known preventative treatment or cure. Alzheimer's affects one in three seniors; one out of two after the age of 85, and is the 6th leading cause of death in our country. Women make up 2/3 of the 5.2 victims and 2/3 of the 15 million caregivers. Got your attention yet?
But it's not just the US; 26 million and growing have the disease worldwide. How's this for a statistic? Last year in Japan, more adult diapers were sold than baby diapers. That's a preview of coming attractions -- the harsh reality and the future we face without a way to stop this killer.
Yet, I have hope. The disease itself hasn't changed, but the tools, research methods and momentum in the fight against this AD are stronger than ever.
Unless we find a treatment or way to strangle this disease, Alzheimer's will bankrupt our country while robbing us and our children of the bright futures we all desire for one another. We have to take action and demand change to bring this disease out of the shadows and into the spotlight; that's why I decided to share my mother's story, and why I wrote the play Surviving Grace.
Surviving Grace is about hope and possibilities, two things my Mother instilled in me. It's with enduring faith that I have dedicated my life to finding a cure for Alzheimer's -- from co-founding USAgainstAlzheimer's to helping build a national movement towards finding a cure through my work with WomenAgainstAlzheimer's on Capitol Hill.
As researchers continue their race against the clock to unlock innovative treatments for Alzheimer's, we must continue to show our country -- lawmakers, community leaders, friends and family alike -- that this disease will not stop unless we take action. For my mother, my daughter and my daughter's daughter, I will not stop fighting for a cure.
This month, we're taking Surviving Grace on the road to help raise money to help fight this disease. The Los Angeles production stars legends Carol Burnett (see her recent interview for Huffington Post 50), Marilu Henner, Elliott Gould, Brian McNamara, Helen Reddy, Loni Anderson and Lou Gossett, Jr. In San Diego, our cast includes Marilu Henner, NPR star Diane Rehm and Robert Foxworth. Talk about great casts. Visit www.survivinggrace.org to learn more about the show, and come join us. I used to be a comedy writer so we can laugh and cry together. And then we can march in the Alzheimer's Army together.
With our voices standing strong as one, we can make a difference in this fight and one day live in a world where Alzheimer's is just a distant memory.