Delivering bad news was part of being an oncologist for Brenda Nicholson. In 2014 when she was diagnosed with early-on-set Alzheimer’s at the age of 49, she suddenly found herself on the other side. 

“I’ve been dealing with death and dying and very stressful situations with my patients,” said Nicholson. “So, I was able to take all of the lessons that I’ve learned from my patients and apply them to myself.”

Related story: Sandra Day O’Connor announces likely Alzheimer’s diagnosis

With Alzheimer’s there was one stark realization for Nicholson and her husband Don.

“The thing that struck both of us was how there was so much hope with cancer and there were survivors telling their story,” said Nicholson. “My husband turned to me and he said that there’s no survivors with people who have Alzheimer’s”

Nicholson is one of more than 110,000 Tennesseans impacted by Alzheimer’s.

“Part of this is that our population is aging,” said Kay Watson with Alzheimer’s Tennessee. “The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age. Half of those who are over age 85 can expect to develop Alzheimer’s disease. So we see that Sandra Day O’Connor falls into that group.”

Nicholson says she has good days and bad ones.

“Some days you wake up and you just feel mentally sharp and you can kind of do whatever with very little limitations,” said Nicholson. “Other days seem to be days where the brain is more inefficient.”

Living with Alzheimer’s has not kept her from living life to the absolute fullest. 

“I’ve been very fortunate because my husband is very supportive and I have an incredibly supportive family, and so, he augments  where I have deficiencies.”