The symptoms of Huntington’s are stealing my wife’s words
The disease affects the brain’s information processing center
My wife, Jill, and I recently celebrated 15 years of marriage. When we said “I do” all those years ago, I couldn’t have guessed what would eventually happen to her: She is being robbed of her words. Or, as she puts it, words are “escaping” her.
Jill will be speaking and suddenly stop because the right word doesn’t pop into her head. We attribute this to the fact that she is gene-positive for Huntington’s disease, which adversely affects the brain and causes speech to falter. This is just one of the many horrible symptoms of the disease.
What’s sad about all of this is that Jill loves words. Her mom tells stories of all the words she used to make up as a child, such as “sammich” for sandwich.
One of the reasons she fell in love with me is because when we first met, I used a word she had never heard before (mercurial), and she had to look it up.
Simply put, Jill loves every word in the English language — even the bad ones, to her mother’s chagrin. So when she’s talking and unable to recall a word, it is noticeable to everyone who loves her.
For those who don’t know her, she is excellent at covering it up by turning it into a joke, such as by saying she was distracted by something “shiny.” Usually, people fill in the word or words for her and don’t notice her struggles. But I have, and the problem is getting worse.
Sometimes she resorts to using hand signals to indicate what she is trying to say. When that doesn’t work, she stops talking. To quote her, she quits “wording.” And it is devastating to see.
I love it when Jill talks. I love how alive she becomes. She’s funny (although sadly, she never uses puns), and the type of person who can command a room when telling a story. She refers to this as “holding court.” So my heart drops when I see her stop talking.
For our 15th anniversary, I would’ve loved to give her a cure for Huntington’s. But for now, I want to stop this terrible illness from taking anything else from her, even if it means that I have to give her all of my words.
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