Self diagnosed, she spent a decade searching for validation. Even as her memory was failing, her mind was sharp enough to know what was wrong.
Cindy Kolick: "The first thing I noticed it took me longer to do things. I was always a good troubleshooter. I could figure out anything and quickly. And it would take me longer to do that."
Cindy Kolick: "I walked out on stage and nothing looked familiar. Nothing looked right. I was in the wrong place."
The place and time -- a stage, where the veteran singer and performer had spent most of her life. The time -- Cindy was only 39 years old.
Cindy Kolick: "I kept telling them the symptoms that I'm showing that's the only thing that could account for it. It's got to be Alzheimer's. So it took me ten years before I finally found a doctor who did a PET scan."
The scan proved Cindy's suspicion -- early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Her doctor placed her on standard medications and gave her some advice.
Cindy Kolick: "Go move to be near your family, which turned out to be the best thing in the world. They're taking care of me like they did when I was a little kid. I can't drive, I can't read. It's difficult for me to watch me go down. It's hard."
Dr. Raj Shah hopes he can make it a little easier. He enrolled Cindy in a clinical trial at Rush to test a diabetes medication that may help the brain take in more glucose -- the main source of fuel for brain cells.
Dr. Raj Shah, geriatrician, Rush University Medical Center: "Early on the brain just doesn't seem to process glucose as well and as a result of that the brain cells tend to die sooner."
PET scans show just how much the brain relies on its fuel.
Dr. Shah: "This one is showing a person with normal memory, and you see glucose is used up in a lot of areas of the brain. And that's shown by the red and yellow. Someone with Alzheimer's Disease, they don't use glucose as well in their brain cells. You don't see as much red and yellow. You see more blue. We're hoping if glucose processing occurs better in brain cells it will help keep those cells alive longer and help prevent memory loss and decline
Like all study participants, Cindy could take the medication for only three months. She doesn't know if she received the drug or a placebo. She does know she felt a difference.
Cindy Kolick: "During that period where I was feeling pretty good, I felt like I was nourished again. I felt like everything was right again. I don't know how else to explain it."
Alex MacPhail, Cindy's husband: "She started reading again. The first day she read 28 words. She was able to walk. Go outside on her own, walk around the complex, didn't get lost, knew where she was going, knew where she had been. It was miraculous. We don't know if she had the placebo, but it was something."
For Cindy and her husband, that something is giving them hope for the future.
Cindy Kolick: "There's no explanation for what I was able to do while I was on the drug. The difference is night and day. And then I started going backwards."
For now, music keeps her moving forward. And when we asked her to sing for us, she belted out a hopeful tune -- perhaps looking to the future when the symptoms she struggles with today become a distant memory.
Rush is hoping to enroll 40 patients with dementia due to Alzheimer's Disease in the drug trial. If you'd like to learn more, contact Lindsay Franti at (312) 563-4111 or Lindsay_Franti@rush.edu.
Potential New Drug Tested for Alzheimer's
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