A NOTE TO SHELLY STERLING
I would like to address your comment about your husband Donald possibly having dementia. First, though, what happened to last week’s diagnosis of prostate cancer? Neither you nor he have mentioned anything about that. Was he misdiagnosed? Cured? Just wondering. As for this recent diagnosis of yours, you also said in your interview with Savannah Guthrie, “I don’t know much about dementia.” That is very true — you don’t.
For ten years, I watched helplessly as my father was conquered in mysterious and unpredictable ways by a thief called Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. For nearly three years now I have run a support group at UCLA for family members of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. So let me tell you something about dementia. As Savannah Guthrie rightly pointed out, dementia does not make someone a racist. It also doesn’t create a completely different personality in an individual (unless, perhaps, there is some other psychological condition blooming at the same time.) What dementia does do is erode the filters that a person has developed throughout their life to keep them from making inappropriate comments, or from revealing opinions that they know will spell trouble. Like expressing racist viewpoints about African-Americans, or one particular African-American — Magic Johnson, for example. Quite simply, dementia can actually reveal who a person is and has always been. It doesn’t insert things that were not already there.
Given the allegations and stories from the past, it doesn’t seem that your husband ever had too many filters, so I’m a tad puzzled by your statement about him changing so much, and not being the man you knew. Really? Was he soft-spoken, tolerant and compassionate before? Just asking.
Here’s something you might want to mull over. There are men out there suffering from prostate cancer. There are men dying from it. I don’t think they appreciate that diagnosis being used as a publicity ploy. There are also many, many people with dementia. They have spouses and family members who grieve every day for what is lost — the memories, the recognition of loved ones, the moments that anchor a life. Don’t throw around terms that you, by your own admission, know nothing about. Racism is an illness — it turns the heart to ice. It’s caused by hatred, not dementia.