Imagine hearing these words: "She has Alzheimer's."
Jan's Story is a full, rich story of two people--and thousands like them--for whom "forever"suddenly and terrifyingly has an expiration date.
Barry Petersen is a long-time, award-winning TV journalist who has covered wars, the devastating Asian tsunami, the historic confrontation at Tiananmen Square, the unspeakable deaths in Rwanda, and so much more…but was not even slightly prepared for what happened to his darling wife, Jan.
Reviews and Accolades
Denver Post Bestseller
This is a love story, a travelogue, a television history...and a stunning,
achingly personal journey. Dashing and fearless, nothing could stop Barry,
the veteran war correspondent, until tragedy knocked him cold. This is
the story of life, love, loss and renewal.
As Barry shows in Jan's Story, all of us learn, in time, to accept that
our beloveds would wish us to have a second chance at life, just as we
would wish that for them. We do that while never forgetting what we once
had and cherished… what we once had and lost.
This is a true story that reads like a novel. I knew Jan and Barry from
their days in Moscow, London and Asia. More than once, she and Barry opened
their home to me. She was intelligent, talented, and gracious, always
with a smile and with a wonderful sense of humor...as true as the blue
of a Texas sky. And then Barry and Jan were slowly, excruciatingly lowered
into a version of hell that enveloped them like a dark, toxic fog. Jan's
Story tells how they faced heartbreak with courage, and Alzheimer's Disease
with a will to survive.
I thought I knew my long time CBS News colleague Barry Petersen, one
of the best and most admired reporters in the business, through his unforgettable
coverage of important events in far away places all over the world. Now
in Jan's Story he uses all his writing and reporting skills to tell the
story of what happened to shatter his own world, and how Alzheimer's Disease
slowly and cruelly robbed his lovely wife Jan of her memory, and both
of them of the most precious things in life. I feel having read it that
I do know Barry better now, and understand better how vulnerable we all
are to the most terrible kind of identity theft."
Alzheimer's Disease is unimaginably cruel. Jan's Story proves that love's
resolve is present and everlasting in trying times. Barry's honest approach
brings courage to those families entwined in this devastating, and to
date, incurable affliction. His writing is a love story trapped in a travesty,
but one from which we can all learn to heal our hearts.
Barry Petersen's utterly honest love story moved me to tears. With a
reporter's eye for detail and a poet's insight, he poignantly shares his
desperate attempt to care for the wife he adores. The book succeeds because
he hides nothing. He intimately leads us through his fear, anger, magical
thinking, guilt, depression, and - ultimately - reborn hope.
What made Barry Petersen great as a TV correspondent has enabled him
to write more than a love story. He has distilled the charged emotions
and "private war stories" of every caregiver who shares the battle against
Alzheimer's with a loved one. No disease deserves to ravage and claim
two victims over years. No one who has ever been a caregiver ever questions
when another says "I can't do it anymore". Jan's story is a must read
by every caregiver, family member and well meaning friends.
None of us wish to experience the slow, insidious theft of a loved one by Alzheimer's disease, but, unfortunately, many of us will. With incredible honesty, Barry Petersen has applied his immense skills as a journalist to chronicling the effects of early onset Alzheimer's disease on a couple deeply in love.
Barry's empathy with Jan gives us glimpse into her experience while progressing through the early stages of disease. His pain is clear while the person he loved, and still loves, gradually becomes inaccessible. By courageously sharing his fears, challenges, doubts, and decisions throughout the progression of Jan's disease, Barry offers his unique and highly personal story as an example to help others understand the incredible impact on both the patient and the caregiver.
While experiencing loss is a part of life, losing a loved one to Alzheimer's
disease is particularly cruel. It is impossible to read this book without
wanting to help fight this disease. As a laboratory scientist working
to develop mouse models that can be used to study Alzheimer's disease,
it is easy to focus on amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and neuron
loss and avoid confronting the personal loss experienced by the patient
and family. There is no avoiding the personal effects of disease in Jan's
Jan's Story is a love story. Not about finding the love of your life,
but rather losing her - to Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, a form of
the disease that affects people in the prime of their life.A vast majority
of Alzheimer's caregivers today are women. Yet the story behind Jan's
Story is an intimate look into a man's life, caring for his beloved wife,
and surviving the heart-wrenching ordeal imposed by The Disease. In the
absence of a cure, the best one can do is provide care and enduring love,
and to be the last one standing - not a secondary victim to The Disease.
The story behind Jan's Story is Barry's Story - spousal love, support,
survival, and the lessons to be learned.
In Jan's Story, Barry Petersen shares his journey into life as a caregiver
to his wife, Jan, diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease at fifty-five.
An intimate and courageously honest memoir about devastating loss, enduring
love, and finding strength to carry on, Jan's Story is a gift to other
families dealing with younger onset Alzheimer's, not because their challenges
and decisions will exactly mirror Barry's and Jan's, but because they
will know that they're not alone.
"A very 21st century take on the shattering experience of having a spouse with early onset Alzheimer's disease. Barry Petersen combines traditional narrative, transcribed emails, and clinical descriptions of the seven stages of Alzheimer's disease to bring the reader into his wrenching account of his vibrant 55 year old wife's descent into dementia and beyond.
"With his naturally journalistic eye, Barry includes angles to his story that are not often found in such memoirs. He lays bare his own emotions and the crush of the financial burden, ultimately culminating in his "moving on" and the guilt that that brought to him. A bedroom scene, late in the book, is almost too painful to contemplate, and must be read to be fully appreciated.
"Barry writes about his "Alzheimer's buddies", fellow traveler spouses
of others affected by the disease. As these buddies comforted Barry, his
own voice in Jan's Story will offer solace and support to others as they
seek to find their own support systems while enduring--and trying to survive--
the 24/7 agony of watching a life partner transformed into some "other",
who then gradually vanishes completely before one's very eyes.
"Barry's beautifully told love story of two healthy, vibrant, adventurous
people is made more heartbreaking by the desolation caused when family
and friends misjudged that Jan had been abandoned. The Disease had invaded
Barry and Jan's life long before anyone knew. Barry's story will help
people understand how the brain can die very slowly while the body still
looks healthy and, on some days, can appear normal."
"This is one of the most honest portrayals of caring for someone with
Alzheimer's disease I've read. Barry Petersen shares his grief at the
loss of the person he deeply loves, the decisions he faced, the emotional
ambiguity he experienced, and the very practical support he needed and
sought. There are many who will resonate with his story and appreciate
his unsparing and unsentimental approach. He shows us how one can choose
to live through the intensely painful times of our lives and be resilient
in spite of, or perhaps, as a result of them. This is not just a book
about loss, it is a book about hope."
"Have the courage to read this book with an open heart and mind, talk
about it, and interrupt the silence. With searing honesty and vulnerability,
Barry Petersen chronicles one of the loneliest, conflicted, and private
dimensions of the Alzheimer's experience - what it is to love someone
when the force of Alzheimer's is sculpting and shaping that love in unforeseen,
wrenching, and even controversial ways. While we follow Barry as narrator,
Jan's own Story is revealed through the largely unspoken and insidious
transformations that she and millions of people living with Alzheimer's
reveal when their familiar pathways of love are profoundly disrupted or
rendered foreign by the disease. Because it is up to all of us as individuals
and as a humane society to recognize that for anyone living through the
experience of Alzheimer's, our capacity to love in all its myriad individual
and collective expressions can and must, endure."
"Jan's Story is a tale that is being lived by millions of people on
a daily basis: the loss of a spouse, a loved one, slowly to Alzheimer's
Disease. While Alzheimer's effects the wider circle of families and friends,
it is most punishing to spouses who lose their partners, lovers, best
friends and the most profound witness to their shared lives. Barry Petersen's
very personal account of losing his wife Jan to early onset Alzheimer's
is unflinching in his description of these changes and the struggle to
redefine oneself throughout the course of the disease. For those who face
these issues, this book provides a view into one couple's journey and
survivorship for the well spouse. It confirms that you are not alone,
the hardships you face are not isolated and the choices you will have
to make are difficult. Read it for solace, read it for knowledge but mostly
read it so you know millions are also treading this difficult journey
About the Author
Multiple Emmy award winner Barry Petersen has covered wars, genocide, interviewed Jimmy Stewart (who answered the door to his Beverly Hills home himself), Anthony Hopkins and several Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal suspects. He covered the war in Bosnia, Tiananmen Square and Rwanda.
Barry watched Mikhail Gorbachev walk among the crowds in the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania, begging them to stay in the Soviet Union and reported on the Iraq war, living on adrenaline, cigarettes and cookies, while having a target painted on his back.
Barry earned one of his Emmys for reporting the Siege of Sarajevo for CBS Sunday Morning. He shared both Peabody and DuPont Awards for being a part of the CBS News Radio coverage of the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, and an Edward R. Murrow award for, of all things, sports writing for a story on baseball coming to Beijing.
Prior to working in television, Barry was a reporter, copyeditor, photographer
and sometimes columnist for several newspapers including the Milwaukee
(WI) Journal, Chicago (IL) TODAY, Omaha (NE) World-Herald and the Miami