British Columbia

When Jill Daum's husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she wrote a play about it

"Forget About Tomorrow," about a family dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s, is based on playwright Jill Daum’s experience of coping with the life-changing diagnosis faced by her husband, Spirit of the West frontman John Mann.

'It was so cathartic and wonderful,' says playwright about writing scenes for 'Forget About Tomorrow'

Jill Daum's most recent production Forget About Tomorrow premieres in Victoria Jan 23. (Jill Daum/Facebook)

When Jill Daum's husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the playwright found catharsis by writing stage scenes that mirrored her experience.

Those scenes would become part of Forget About Tomorrow, which tells the story of a family dealing with the degenerative disease.

Daum began writing the play in 2014 after her husband John Mann — frontman of the Canadian rock band Spirit of the West — was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. 

"I started to write scenes about a woman whose husband was diagnosed with early onset and it was so cathartic and wonderful," she told North By Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

The family hadn't revealed the news to anyone but their close relatives, so she began crafting the script secretly while involved in a writing workshop for women in theatre with the Wet Ink Collective.

"It was like I got to tell people without actually having to tell them and have to deal with all the truths of it. It was this really healing thing for me and John was really supportive."

Mann discovered she was working on the project and jumped on board to contribute to the production.

"In our house we'd always used adversity for art and he really wanted to be involved, find a voice for what he was going through so he started to write some music that could be used in the show," Daum said.

Mann's last theatre production was a musical about his battle with colon cancer called The Waiting Room, and Daum found theatrical success 20 years ago with Mom's The Word.

"In Mom's The Word, it was challenges not at as drastic as major health ones that we're doing now, but just challenges with being a parent."

Forget About Tomorrow is about the acceptance of life's curveballs. It took Daum about two years to fully process the diagnosis.

"Getting to the point of acceptance was the story unto itself for me. I think it resonates for people in all kinds of things, it's not just an early-onset diagnosis, it's a cancer diagnosis or something you're reticent of."

Through the cathartic process of creating the play Daum said she found strength and optimism in the compassionate caregivers and volunteers that have been helping her and the family through the ongoing process of Mann's developing condition.

"My world is not shrunken, it's bigger. And I think instead of making me bitter and shrivelled, it's making me a little bit more compassionate and a little bit smarter about what other people in the world go through."

"It's been a learning experience but it took me a long time to get here."

Forget About Tomorrow premieres at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria on Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 18. The play will be performed in Vancouver in March.

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

With files from the CBC's North By Northwest