The Grammy Award-winning singer Glen Campbell announced this week that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. And then he said he'd be going on the road for a farewell tour.
It's not unusual for a public figure to reveal a diagnosis of the insidious disease. Former President Reagan told the world of his battle with Alzheimer's in a poignant letter in 1994. Actor Charlton Heston disclosed, via a taped statement, that he was suffering from symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer's. Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver's 2003 diagnosis was also announced. Although Heston and Shriver later made occasional appearances — and the "Ben Hur" star gave an interview — those prominent men essentially exited the public stage. Or to quote Heston quoting Shakespeare in his statement, they bade farewell and "melted into air, into thin air."
What's extraordinary about the 75-year-old Campbell, who revealed his illness in an interview with People magazine, is his intention to stay in the spotlight — and ask his fans' indulgence. That decision, if he can carry it out, is a milestone in the fight against Alzheimer's, a disease that currently has no cure, afflicts 5 million Americans and will only strike more as baby boomers age.