NBC News (August 13, 2014): Embedded inside the Mind of Alzheimer's

Publication Date: 
Wed, 08/13/2014

In 2009, award-winning journalist Greg O’Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s; he was just 59 years old. It’s the kind of news that no one is prepared for, and yet O’Brien, who had watched both his maternal grandfather and mother succumb to the disease, was perhaps more prepared than most.

O’Brien turned his reporter’s eyes upon himself, taking copious notes, and chronicling the daily challenges and indignities of the disease. The result of that work is "On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's,” a deeply personal memoir which O’Brien has dedicated to his mother; her courage, he says, taught him to stand firm in faith against “a demon of a disease.”

In fact, O’Brien is facing a war on two fronts, although he has resolved to fight only one of them.

“I have prostate cancer too,” he says. “I’m not treating it because I’m not going to go to a nursing home. That’s my exit strategy.”

It’s that kind of candor, combined with O’Brien’s humor, faith, and devotion to his family, which makes “On Pluto” a startling and often devastating account of what it is to defend your mind, body, and way of life from an insidious and as yet incurable disease.

Here, the writer/reporter and subject of a documentary shot by “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James, discusses his coping strategies, bouts of rage, and the role his mother played in encouraging him to tell his story.