Winston-Salem, NC -- Ed and Rebecca Shaw have been married for 34 years. On their wedding day in 1980, they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together. But their future is fading and so is their past.
60-year-old Rebecca Shaw was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in her early 50's. Alzheimer's Disease is a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior and gets worse over time. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease. There's no cure and it's ultimately deadly.
Ed graciously shared his heartbreaking journey with WFMY News 2's Julie Luck as he slowly loses his wife to the disease.
At first, Rebecca forgot simple things such as meeting her husband for an occasional lunch or not remembering the contents of a magazine article she had just read.
The disease has progressively worsened. One day last summer, the mother of three adult children woke up and no longer remembered her husband of 34 years.
"She looks the same. For the kids, the feelings are the same but she's lost us and it's the cruelties of the disease," said Ed.
Before Rebecca became a stay at home mom, she had worked in public schools helping children with their language problems. She has a master's degree in speech pathology but today, she barely speaks.
"She was a whiz at Sudoku. Now, she can't write her name. She couldn't add one plus one together," explained Ed.
Rebecca might not remember all their years together but Ed has not forgotten the promise he made on their wedding day.
"We took those vows seriously and I know if the tables were turned, she would do for me what I am doing for her in a heartbeat," said Ed.
Ed has found new purpose since his wife was diagnosed. He left his job as a successful brain tumor doctor and cancer researcher. Now, he's a counselor to families who've been affected by Alzheimer's Disease. He started the Memory Assessment Clinic Counseling Center, which is part of the geriatrics department at Wake Forest Baptist Health. The center doesn't charge for services and operates fully on donations.
"I had to find a way to do something to make meaning of this meaningless disease."