Saskatoon·New

Roxanne Varey shares her story of Alzheimer's diagnosis at 51

There were clues. But at 51, Roxanne Varey never imagined she had early on-set Alzheimer's disease.

Regina woman sees herself as an advocate for people with dementia

Roxanne Varey was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's disease when she was only 51 years old. Now she advocates for those with Alzheimer's. (Sheila Coles/CBC)

There were clues. But at 51, Roxanne Varey never imagined she had early-onset Alzheimer's disease. 

"It felt like my hard drive was full," she said. "I just could not retain new information."

Varey struggled with language, memory loss and a lack of dexterity on one side of her body.  

Her doctors first ruled out other conditions such as sleep apnea or a stroke. She eventually went through two days of cognitive testing at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina.  

"The first day it was fun, I was playing with blocks and colouring and drawing. It was like being in kindergarten," she said. "The second day at about lunch time I called my husband in tears saying I didn't want to go back. I was starting to see the writing on the walls."

During her testing, she was given three unrelated words to remember and then asked to do another task. When she was asked to repeat those three words, she couldn't remember them. Varey's neurologist told her she had terminal Alzheimer's disease with no cure.

At first Varey and her husband were in shock. She is now 52 and says her Mormon faith and her sense of humour have helped her cope. She also sees herself now as an advocate. 

"I really want to stress that there's life after early diagnosis." she said. 

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan is highlighting several facts about the disease this month. It's also offering a test for people to check symptoms of dementia. 

You can hear Roxanne Varey in conversation Monday morning with Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski at 7:15 on 94.1 FM and with Morning Edition host Sheila Coles at 7:45 on 102.5 FM or across the province on 540 AM. 

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