When Sharon Stone came home from the doctor’s office with the sad news her test for Alzheimer’s was positive, she immediately called her children.
“The kids wanted to know right away so I phoned them and told them, (shouting) ‘I passed the test,’” laughed Sharon, 71. She lives in Summerland with husband of 37 years, Grant Stone. “The kids all really got a kick out of that because they were all really worried about mom crawling under the bed or something.”
Obviously, despite the diagnosis, she keeps a positive outlook on life, is active and lives each day to the fullest.
“You know, when I feel like this thing is starting to get me down I just get up off my ass and go for a walk outside,” said Sharon, who is also part of a study group that includes the use of a new trial drug. “I haven’t suffered from it (Alzheimer’s). It isn’t painful, it doesn’t hurt like cancer. I have some short term memory loss, like when guys forget to flush the toilet.”
Sharon is this year’s Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s honouree, an annual fundraiser and awareness event that takes place in May.
According to Mary Beth Rutherford of the Penticton office of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., Sharon is the perfect poster child for what life can be with dementia.
“She’s out there doing things in the community, and she is not about to let this get her down,” said Rutherford.
A good example of that is you can find Sharon volunteering in the souvenir shop at the current Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Curling to her is more than just a spectator sport. It is a memory of a very special moment for, at the time, a 19-year-old Edmonton girl.
Sharon (nee Harrington) was an impromptu member of the Jamison rink out of the Crestwood Curling Club who won Alberta’s first Canadian Women’s Curling Championship in 1966 in Vancouver.
“This lady (Hazel Jamison) had three daughters who played on the team and one of them got pregnant and couldn’t go so they asked me,” recalled Sharon. “That was something I will never forget, and to get to go again now, after all those years, is just such a thrill.”
She said it was her children who first noticed what proved to be the symptoms of dementia, and her husband remembers the day he knew for certain something was wrong.
“I guess really it happened before the diagnosis,” said Grant. “My sister’s husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and they gave him three months and he lasted two months. I remember sitting down with Sharon and told her ‘David’s passed away’ and three weeks later she said ‘do you know how David’s doing?’
“You use the expression ‘I already told you that’ but after you’ve used that expression, you know, a few dozen times, you stop.”
Along with working full time as a transit driver Grant is Sharon’s main caregiver, and he admits it’s not been easy.
“It has been kind of — I want to speak from the heart, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it — it’s been a challenge and it’s been kind of heartbreaking at the same time,” he said. “To see this vibrant personality and so skilled and to kind of see her lose her confidence. It’s kind of sad. I don’t mean to have any kind of a pity party, but I wasn’t expecting this at this stage of our lives. Nobody does.
“Sitting in our nice little house here, beside the garden and looking out at the view, she’s very safe and content here but when you get out of that routine …”
And his caring is not lost on Sharon.
“I have the best husband ever,” she said with a smile. “He’s just there for me for everything, we have so much fun together, he’s just always there for me and I love him so much.”
She is also no stranger to dementia, having worked with the society as a respite manger for two years and looking after her mother who eventually died from the disease in a Summerland care home.
“Honestly, my biggest hope is for a cure, not necessarily for me but for my children, so they don’t have to go through this. But for me, I’m just going to keep smiling. I passed, remember?”