Legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt announced yesterday that she has early dementia of the Alzheimer’s type:
Many people have commented since how Summitt plans to meet this challenge, as she has all others in her life, with her customary grit and toughness (After all, this is a woman who delayed having her only child while returning from a recruiting trip so that her then-husband could be there for the birth.).
The support for Summit has been unanimous, from Candace Parker, who tweeted the following message:
Coach Summitt you never cease to amaze me with your strength and courage. Whenever you face adversity you tackle it … tmi.me/eTfs8
to her longtime rival, University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who paid tribute to the indomitable redhead.
The Tennessee community has also rallied around Summitt, who said she will rely more than every on her assistant coaches.
As she gets adjusted to her changing and diminishing abilities, she might consider reading Lisa Genova’s Still Alice.
The novel tells the story of Alice, a tenured Harvard science professor at the height of her powers whose getting lost while jogging near her home is the first sign that she has started to lose her faculties.
Eventually, the diagnosis comes in: early onset dementia.
As opposed to Summitt, Alice tries to keep the truth hidden for a while, and it comes out. Much of the book chronicles her gradual but inexorable decline, the losses little by little of memory, and, ultimately, of her self.
And, as may be the case with Summitt, family gets her through.
The book shows how the diminution of her cognitive abilities is accompanied by a deeper connection with love, especially her youngest daughter.
Summitt already has that relationship with her son Tyler, who said in a statement yesterday how much he admires his mother’s strength and courage in dealing with this and every other challenge she has encountered.
The love Summitt receives from Tyler and the rest of her Tennessee and basketball family will likely grow in different directions in the upcoming weeks and months. Still Alice shows one side of how Summitt’s decline may go, and, as we all learn each day, we are all in the end like snowflakes, made of the same stuff but each different in our way.