B. Smith always kept extremely busy with fashion, running restaurants, and writing books. So when she was struck with early on-set Alzheimer’s Disease, no one was more surprised than B. and her husband and business partner Dan Gasby.
Alzheimer’s is usually associated with people ages 65 and older. However, it can strike individuals as young as their early 40s. Altogether, 5.4 million Americans suffer from the debilitating disease.
In fact, every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease, and African-Americans are twice as likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s as Whites.
Instead of running from Alzheimer’s, B. and Dan chose to go public in an effort to help others. They’ve written about their experiences in the New York Times best-selling book, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.
B. Smith and Dan Gasby spoke with Roland Martin during Tuesday’s edition of NewsOne Now in a very touching interview, during which they shared how living with Alzheimer’s has impacted them.
Before the diagnosis, Dan Gasby told Martin, “We had everything.”
“We didn’t need anything. We had come from nothing, made something, and our world was perfect. I could look across the room and talk to her with my eyes, we could walk into a room and light it up, light each other up, light the audience up, or in a restaurant make people feel at home,” Gasby said.
He continued by explaining how they came to discover the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, calling it “little signs of difference.”
“There were outbursts of outrage about something that didn’t seem to be necessary, or repeating of a question more than one time and in rapid succession — or asking for something that was no longer there or no longer realizable.”
“Those things make you go ‘WTF?,'” Gasby said.
“Alzheimer’s does not start like you turn a switch on, or you catch a cold.” He described the beginning stages of the disease as a storm: “You don’t know that it’s going to be a rain storm or if it’s going to be [Hurricane] Sandy…In the case of Alzheimer’s, it is Sandy, because it changes everything.”
Discovering Alzheimer’s had begun to set in during what Gasby described as “the peak of what we know is her ability to talk and deal with things,” B. told her husband, “I want to tell people what I’m dealing with.”
Gasby recounts B. saying, “I don’t want people to define me and I don’t define myself.” Adding, “that was the genesis” of their book, Before I Forget.
B. told Martin when she first started working on the book, things were going well and suddenly it “became difficult.” She explained the changes were hard to deal with and said, “At that time, I definitely wasn’t going to stop.”
Gasby shared a terrifying account of the Thanksgiving Smith went missing for seventeen hours while it was sleeting. She was only wearing a windbreaker and high-heeled shoes.
WATCH part 2 of Living With Alzheimer’s: B. Smith And Husband Dan Gasby Share Their Incredible Story On NewsOne Now
During the second part of their chat with Roland Martin, Smith and Gasby continued to discuss the impact Alzheimer’s has on their lives.
Gasby explained those who are taking care of individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s should “talk to a registered therapist, to go through and let it out.”
“I’ll go down to the beach and I’ll scream,” he said. “I’ve cursed God out many times and asked for forgiveness, but I had to get it out.”
In describing the effects of Alzheimer’s on the person suffering with the disease, Gasby equated it to “an act of domestic terrorism.” He said, “There is a war going on inside the person. It’s an all-out frontal assault” taking place. “It devastates the person and those who they love.”
Despite what the Alzheimer’s is doing to Smith, she vows not to stop. The couple plans to continue to travel. “We still party and dance and have a good time, it’s just different,” she said.
When asked to share her views about the battle, Smith said, “I always loved what I did and I’m going to continue to do as much as I possibly can…I’m feeling good, but I do know that there are things that I have to do and that’s good for me and my family.”
Earlier during their discussion on NewsOne Now, Martin prefaced the true meaning of the wedding vows, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”
Martin said B. Smith and Dan Gasby’s incredible story of “coming from nothing, to having something,” to now facing Alzheimer’s “is the true test of a marriage and whether or not you’re committed.”
Gasby responded to Martin’s statement saying, “There is no testimony about the testament … if I never do anything but make sure that she is protected for as long as I breathe — I’ve done everything.”
Watch Roland Martin, B. Smith, and her husband Dan Gasby discuss living with Alzheimer’s and their new book in the video clips above.
Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.