Cactus Pryor, Texas Radio Host, Faces Alzheimer's
In January, I had dinner with one of my closest friends, Jackie. Having started our friendship during college, Jackie and I have shared the ups and downs of each other's professional and personal lives and have provided stories, counseling and commentary based on our long history.
As that January dinner conversation turned to mourning my mother's passing, Alzheimer's and my writing for this website, Jackie noted, "You know, Dorian, your mom at heart was a change agent. Although she might have said that she didn't like having you write about some of the less flattering issues she faced with Alzheimer's, your mother also would have wanted others to have learned about this terrible disease and what it does not only to the person who has it, but to those who care about them. She would be very proud of you."
Jackie had a point; my mother was a fighter who wanted to change the world. And though she didn't have a choice in whether she took on Alzheimer's or not, deep down I believe she was glad that she raised a daughter who was both a journalist and a change agent who could put a face and a story to this huge health issue.
More and more, I find that the battle of Alzheimer's is coming out from behind the closed doors where we used to put it. Thanks to some very famous people - such as Ronald Reagan and his family, as well as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - we've started witnessing that this disease reaches into every strata of society and we also publicly view firsthand the progression of this disease and the resulting issues that must be faced.
Over the weekend, another celebrity (at least in Texas) has announced his own battle against Alzheimer's. Cactus Pryor, who has been a radio personality, actor, humorist, and author, as well as a close friend of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's family, was the subject of a feature in the Austin American Statesman on Sunday.
Sharing this information about his diagnosis wasn't easy; Pryor is quoted as fearing that people will think, "there's old Cactus on his deathbed seeking the limelight." But I don't think it's the desire for the spotlight. Instead, I credit Cactus for being willing to bringing important publicity about this disease and the battle he and his wife are facing on a daily basis.
The article, by reporter Ricardo Gandara, provides a more important message that people - especially those touched by dementia - should consider. "It ain't all hell," Pryor is quoted as saying. "Alzheimer's is feared and cursed, but it can be an opportunity to pass on information to others that there's still some living and laughing to do."
The article also shares the challenges that Cactus's wife, Peggy, has faced in being a caregiver. "I'm learning tremendous lessons in taking care of myself to go the distance in taking care of Cactus and other family members. Keeping a spiritual center is an important part of my health. It requires silence on my part and some alone time," Peggy is quoted as saying.
Through agreeing to this profile, Cactus and Peggy are walking in the shoes of those who have gone before them in highlighting the trials created by Alzheimer's. We all should thank them for serving as public examples who have been willing to describe how they attempt to undertake such a private and difficult journey.