Q&A: Marian May, who lives with Alzheimer’s

Marian in West Yorkshire, aged 79 and living with Alzheimer’s disease, answers our questions and shares her ‘Perfect Day’. 

What’s changed most since your diagnosis? 

We relocated from the seaside at St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, to Leeds, where we are two doors away from our daughter and family.

Being in a city with two teaching hospitals has brought us more support and we are enjoying the challenge of living somewhere completely different. 

My memory of garden plants has gone off, I used to be really red hot – I knew what every plant was, its Latin name and the rest of it, and now I don’t. 

I can’t drive a car anymore, and I do miss that. I can read, fortunately, so that’s fine – that would be a nightmare for me if I couldn’t read, but so far that’s alright.

Marian May

Marian climbing Alpine peaks with her children.

What would you take to your desert island? 

It was hard to pick one book, but Shakespeare’s sonnets. I chose English literature in my teaching course – I was 35 years as a teacher and college lecturer. 

I started at one of the new comprehensive schools because I thought, ‘It’s new, it’s different, it might be interesting,’ and it was!

I started off by teaching English and English literature. Later, when I taught at a further education college, I began teaching business studies. 

How has Alzheimer’s Society helped you? 

You put us in touch with a book club. Tony, my husband, got advice over the phone in the early days.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

What song or tune sums up your life so far? 

Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. I think it’s a lovely song anyway, but you know how sometimes a particular thing hits you.

I was driving our daughter, who was a baby then, across Ashdown Forest and I had the car radio on.

This song came on and I’d not heard it before, and somehow it was such a summation of what we were doing and where we were at – the family growing up and the rest of it. 

What single thing would improve your quality of life? 

To be able to go places unaccompanied without worry. There is a vulnerability there that I have. It comes from, in the old days, being highly independent all the time – I’d go off anywhere and sort things out.

Around the time I was diagnosed, I went out along the road from the house we lived in then and forgot which house it was coming back. 

We’re not going to travel as much because there are all sorts of inherent problems, and one gets twitchy with Alzheimer’s – worrying, ‘Is this going to work alright?’ There is more anxiety and, as Tony says, I’m an anxious person anyway. 

If you could go back in time, where would you go? 

Climbing Alpine peaks with the children. We were young, competent climbers roped up with tough, competent children in dazzlingly beautiful and challenging places. We succeeded and had great memories.

We never met anyone else who did the same. We did a lot of travelling with our children when they were young, and we have many photos from those times – Tony’s a good photographer. 

What is your most treasured possession? 

Our wedding and engagement rings. We were marrying with very little money but persuaded an eminent designer, John Donald, to make us a linking set that only looks complete with both rings.

They are unique to us. The stone is iron pyrites – ‘fool’s gold’. It seems appropriate! 

Answer our questions

If you have dementia and would like to answer our questions for a future article, or you know someone who would, email us at [email protected] to let us know.

Email us

Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now