By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health

In honor of Valentine’s month, I hope you’ll indulge me while I share my personal experience and a few observations of extraordinary examples of love while practicing the protocol. Love is one of those intangible sentiments that’s hard to define with words, but we all know it when we see it or feel it. I’m regularly moved by the beautiful demonstrations that I’ve witnessed amongst our participants: between partners, parents and children, siblings, friends, and most especially the self-love that’s vital to successfully practice the protocol.

When we start our lives, our families, full of hope for a bright future, dementia is the furthest thing from our minds. And, when it strikes, our relationships are often put to the test. This is especially true given the mainstream prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease progression. When my neurologist wished me luck when I was exhibiting symptoms ten years ago, I was devastated. When I decided to fight my way back, my husband supported me every step of the way. He helped me found my non-profit, ApoE4.Info, where I could partner with others to search for answers. He supported my travel to specialists all over the US, the cost of treatment, supplements, etc. Perhaps one of the greatest ways that he supported me was to completely change his diet and lifestyle to mirror mine, which has led to a pretty radical health transformation himself. We’re now being challenged with the mold leg of our journey, learning that our already remediated home has to undergo round two. This is especially hard for Bruce because he feels fine, but he’s still open to taking necessary steps to provide a safe home for me. His unconditional love and support have enabled me to find answers, to maintain the protocol for ten years while continually optimizing my health. I’m beyond grateful to my best friend, my touchstone. He gives me roots so I can bloom. This is love.

I see so many other couples on the protocol faced with the same dynamics, and each relationship plays out in a unique way. I’ve seen women who’d spent a lifetime depending upon their husbands to be their anchors suddenly have to pivot when Alzheimer’s strikes. For the first time, they see their husbands as vulnerable, and a dramatic role reversal takes place. They become warriors — searching for answers, navigating the protocol to help their husbands heal. In taking charge, these women find deep strength within themselves. They become the anchor, pulling their beloveds back. This is love.

I see so many men experience utter helplessness when their wives, who’ve been the CEOs of their households, suddenly begin to decline. Many of these men struggle to keep their homes and wives from dissolving into chaos. I see them not only learn how to run their households, but many also become protocol experts in an effort to “fix” their wives. They transform into brilliant citizen scientists intricately involved in applying each strategy. They learn how to cook with the correct macronutrient proportions to achieve ketosis; they learn how to use a glucose/ketone meter; they monitor oxygen saturation while their wives are sleeping. Where they once relied upon their wives to run their worlds, they now take over in an effort to heal their wives. This is love.

I see adult children, who learn about the protocol, work diligently to apply it to their parents. It’s always tricky when asking anyone to change their diet and lifestyle, but especially so when it’s a child trying to help a parent. It’s another role reversal of an even greater magnitude that almost signals a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation to the next. Our parents, who once nurtured and cared for us, are suddenly in the role of needing to be cared for, and many of them push back. One adult son beautifully navigated this tension with, “Mom, we’re getting older. It’s time we started taking better care of ourselves.” By equally focusing on himself, he was able to entice his mother to try. This is love.

I’ve been especially moved by single women, some divorced or widowed, who are applying the protocol by themselves, often without any support from other family members. They recognize that they need help, come to the protocol, and do their best to find supportive practitioners and health coaches to assist them. Their brave actions are a beautiful example of the self-love and self-preservation that’s essential to be successful on the protocol. This is love.

One couple that forever stole my heart experienced a pretty radical transformation in the space of a week. Years ago, we conducted a one-week immersion of the protocol out in the desert. Several dozen couples and families attended. As one couple arrived, it was immediately clear that the wife was severely declined. Her MoCA score at that point was zero. She was completely non-verbal; she was unable to even make eye contact. After one week of applying the strategies in the protocol and spending supportive time with others on the same journey, she blossomed. On our last night, there was music on the outdoor veranda, and she danced with her handsome, strong husband under the desert stars. I saw him hold her tenderly. I saw her gaze into his eyes. By the time she left, she was speaking, smiling; she had come back. I ran into them at the airport as we were all catching different flights back home. The husband was so full of plans for how he could apply the protocol once they got back. She continues to improve to this day. Last I heard, she’d re-learned to ride a bike. This is love.

In my search for answers, I’ve interacted with many Alzheimer’s researchers, and I can say with certainty that Dr. Bredesen is different from them all. After 30 years of working in the laboratory with transgenic mice, he made the courageous decision to apply the protocol to actual people. He knew that the alternative was utter hopelessness. His inspiration was his brilliant wife, an integrative physician, who steadfastly maintained that reversing dementia would entail dietary and lifestyle changes to elicit the biochemical changes necessary for reversal. Their teamwork and lifelong devotion to our community are revolutionizing the way we treat Alzheimer’s. This is love.

They say trials bring out your true character. Many participants and care partners that I interact with are under incredible stress, often fighting for their very survival. I’ve been honored to witness tremendous examples of their love for one another under pressure. Please know that I see you. We’re travelers on the same journey, pioneers rewriting the Alzheimer’s story for our children and generations to come. It’s not easy; we have no guarantee of success. Our hope for a better tomorrow and determination to keep fighting is love in action. Yes, this is love.  

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