She and Mark were there a few hours later. At exactly three the receptionist told them they could go through to the doctor’s office. Mark gave a light rap on the door and a voice called out, “Come in.” Dr Gibson sat behind a pile of papers on his desk. He rose immediately and walked around to shake their hands. He invited them to sit on a overstuffed sofa in a corner of his office. He took the armchair across from them.

He sat back in the chair, his elbows on the armrests, fingers interlaced in front of his chest. He looked at Ann and smiled. Her hope flagged. It was a sad smile. She sat upright with her hands in her lap, her fingers clutching the hand Mark had given her. Here we go, she thought. This will change my life. She had a sudden urge to stand up and run. But she sat still, squeezing Mark’s fingers.

“Ann,” he began, “there are a number of additional tests we’d like to run, just to be sure. It’s a tricky science, the brain. With your presenting symptoms, as I told you before, we usually find some sort of tumour that is putting pressure on the brain, causing problems with balance and memory. The MRI clearly showed us that there are no tumours.”

Mark squeezed Ann’s fingers back. Good news, was what he meant. Ann still felt she was under a dark cloud of fear.

“The other thing we look for are lesions which may point to a chronic autoimmune disease like MS, but we were able to rule that out.”

Ann’s breathing was shallow and rapid. She was beginning to feel dizzy again.

“We looked for vascular irregularities which would indicate a possible stroke, but we didn’t find any evidence of damaged blood vessels.”

Dr Gibson paused, leaned forward and laced his fingers together with his thumbs pointing up wrestling each other. Neither Ann nor Mark moved. The moment was frozen. Don’t say it, Ann thought as she watched the doctor. She closed her eyes briefly. Don’t say it or it will be real.

“What we did find is what we think is atrophy in the frontal and temporal lobes.”

“Dementia.” Ann said it. “You think I have dementia. Like Alzheimer’s?”

“A type of dementia, yes,” the doctor leaned in closer. “But there are some distinct differences between FTD, or Frontotemporal Degeneration, and Alzheimer’s. The onset of FTD is much earlier than Alzheimer’s. And because they effect different areas of the brain, the symptoms are different. Alzheimer’s patients’ symptoms usually present as memory loss. FTD patients experience more difficulty specifically with language.”

Dr Gibson stood up and walked over to his desk. He picked up a sheaf of papers and then walked back to the Marstons and sat down. He tried to hand the papers to Ann, but she didn’t move. Mark took them. “That is some information on FTD. Read it over when you have time. If you have any questions or would like to talk, please make an appointment. Meanwhile there are a number of tests I want to set up, a lumbar puncture and a PET scan. I want to make sure we know what we are dealing with. I’ll have Suzy schedule the tests and she’ll call you to let you know.”

The doctor stood up. Mark stood up. Ann then got slowly to her feet. “The good news, Ann, is that we have caught it relatively early. There are several different options for treatment, but we can talk about those after the tests. For now, get rest and try not to worry.”

Holding his hand, Ann followed Mark out of the rooms, into the parking garage and to the car. Mark turned when they reached their vehicle and hugged Ann to himself. She allowed herself to be swallowed in his arms. “I love you, Ann. We’ll get through this together.”



(part one)   (part two)