Defeating Dementia – Interview with Francis McNear
Interview with Francis McNear – author of Defeating Dementia: My Recovery From Alzheimer’s
Charmaine and Jean “met” Francis McNear on a dementia Facebook group where he works to inspire people.
Francis is an author and businessman who unfortunately developed cognitive decline several years ago. A chance conversation led to Francis finding and meeting Dr Bredesen and now Francis has improved on the protocol. Francis has now written a book about his journey Defeating Dementia: My Recovery From Alzheimer’s
Charmaine and Jean spoke to Francis recently and we are so pleased to share the interview with you.
You can either click here to listen to the interview or you can read the transcript below.
CS – Charmaine Shepherd
JD – Jean Dow
FM – Francis McNear
CS: Morning Frank, how are you?
FM: I’m fine. How are you?
CS : Very, very well.
I’ve got Jean and myself here. We very excited to be speaking to you today. We’ve been having a look at your book and very excited to, you know, to read a little bit about your journey. But I wondered for our listeners, whether you could tell us just very briefly in a minute or two, and your story,
FM: Okay, you know, like how it started and why.
FM: Okay. I will tell you it didn’t come on all at once. It really snuck up on me, like a day at a time, one more terrifying thing that came out of my mouth at a time. It started there. Six years before I was finally diagnosed. The time I got really bad was 2010, and I had convinced myself that I had Alzheimer’s. I didn’t know anything about Alzheimer’s except that you couldn’t cure it. And because I believed that, like most people did back then, I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t see a doctor for very long time. And when it got really, really bad I finally did. And he told me I had mild cognitive impairment, and then a year later, I diagnosed by another doctor, and it had gotten significantly worse just in that year. Then I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. By then I was afraid of it. I had stopped socialising. My business was a total disaster.
I was afraid. I was afraid to go anywhere because I was afraid I’d run into somebody that I was supposed to know and wouldn’t. I stopped doing everything that I enjoyed. And I woke up, well, I was scared every single morning. I realised I was going to need round the clock care before very long. And that’s why we moved to Mexico in 2014.
And when we got here, I just happened to overhear a conversation in a restaurant about Dr. Dale Bredesen and his original study. I looked it up. Nine people in his original study that reversed the symptoms all had the exact same symptoms. So, my goal became “I need to talk to this doctor”. And it took me six or seven months to get him on the phone. And long story short, I finally did.
We spoke for half an hour, he invited me to come out to California, which was a really big thing for me because by then I was very afraid of travelling alone. But I when I met him, I listened to a presentation he gave, and I met one of the women who had reversed the symptoms. And she gave a little talk. And her symptoms were identical to mine. Identical. She lived in a small place where she couldn’t go anywhere without getting lost. She was afraid to drive. couldn’t remember her friends. And she was fine. I mean, she’s absolutely fine. She appeared to me totally coherent.
I spoke to her later and, I spoke to Dr. Bredesen for about a half an hour. You know, somebody said I’m a part of the business machine or something like that the other day.Just for the record, he didn’t charge me a nickel. That half an hour he spent with me was on a day where there was probably 100 people waiting to talk to him.
I started practising protocol. And I started getting better relatively quickly. And I think I told you I did have a relapse. I did go back and be in pretty bad shape because I stopped practising. I did that because I lost a lot of weight, which can be one of the side effects of the protocol. I wanted to gain some weight really, really quickly, so I said I was going to eat nothing but sugar based products for four days and lose five pounds.
And it didn’t work out. The four days turned into three weeks. In the process, I became almost as bad as I had been before.
I mean, I couldn’t hold a conversation across the room. If I wanted to say something to somebody on the other side of the room, I’d yell at them rather than walk across because I knew I’d forget before I got there.
JD: Francis. Implementing change is never easy. What’s your advice to both patients and carers?
FM: What’s my advice to people that are starting out? Yeah, my advice is start anywhere you can start. I mean, to really do the protocol, right? You have to start with blood work, because you have to find out exactly what nutritional deficiencies are going on in your body, or what other kind of inflammation might be going on. I never had hardly any of those tests done. What I did is I read the three case studies in the original study of 10 people, and I duplicated everything that they said that they did in those case studies. Which is why reasons I take like 12 to 14 supplements a day.
I’m sure if I got all the testing done, I’m probably doing twice as many as I need to do. As far as all the rest of it. If you’re like me, I never used to eat any salads and I used to eat a lot of sugar based stuff. I had to cut that out. It was not easy. I also had to stop gluten, and I never realized how much I love bread. Now I know it’s because it’s got so much sugar in it. But my advice would be, do whatever part of the protocol you can do, and start adding to it.
Do the exercise, do the meditation, do whatever you can to reduce the stress in your life. Change your diet. I don’t think anybody has done it perfectly. And Dr. Bredesen, what he told me when I was having a hard time is stop beating yourself up. You’re doing great.
Anything you can do is going to be an improvement. You can’t do it all at once.
CS: I think that’s really good advice. Also just, you know, making any incremental changes, building on the changes that you are making. And doing it bit but bit.
FM: There’s so much information that’s coming out every day. I don’t know if you’re aware of it but in the United States, there are a lot of Facebook support pages for people with Alzheimer’s. There’s new information that comes out every day.
CS: Absolutely. I think it’s the same for all of us. We continue to learn and continue to develop every single day, so it is an ongoing process.
FM: Exactly. But one thing I want to make clear is that the Bredesen protocol is not a cure. It will reverse the symptoms. But it will only do so, as long as you continue to practice the protocol. If you stop practicing the protocol for a month then, you know you’re going to be in trouble again.
I also don’t want to put out false hope. The doctor is very clear that his protocol works best in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment stages 1,2 and 3. Myself I was vacillating between stage 3 and 4. Once you’re past stage 4, it gets harder and harder and harder.
JD: Francis, what would your advice be to the caregivers?
FM: Oh Lord, don’t lose your mind! My advice would be get as much support as you possibly can. Try and build a team. Either from your family, from your church or from your neighbours, get people to commit.
One of the problems with getting help from your friends, actually there’s two problems. One, nobody believes that your loved one is as sick as they are. Because, you know, people with Alzheimer’s have this unique ability to present normally for 15/20 minutes at a time in certain settings, when they’re around their friends. When your friends are talking to you, they don’t know that you’re not going to remember a word said an hour later.
They don’t believe that you need that much help. That’s the whole secret, you got to get help, that’s the longest chapter in my book.
And then there’s lots of resources. At least in the United States. There’s like a lot of resources of how to get help in your community and in your state. You can’t do it alone.
My other advice would be..I don’t know how my wife did it. A guy with Alzheimer’s already feels horrible. He wakes every up every day scared, afraid, embarrassed. It’s really easy to get frustrated with somebody with Alzheimer’s, living with somebody is extremely challenging. And you just got to try your best and not get mad at them.
JD: I think you’re an inspiration. You know, hearing what you’re saying and looking at your book. I think you will be a big inspiration to lots of people out there who are living with this condition.
FM: In the United States there’s about 6 million and 25 million people taking care of them.
CS: Absolutely. The effect on to the caregivers is enormous.
FM: Right, exactly. It’s harder on the caregiver than it is on the guy that’s sick.
CS: Absolutely. We’ve really enjoyed speaking to you, Francis, and really appreciate it. I think there was a couple of things in the interview that I think is going to resonate very much with a lot of people out there.
You know, I think it’s, it’s a wonderful book. It’s a wonderful book for carers to read. But also for people who know you know, the early stages of cognitive decline. I think it just, it’s a wonderful journey. And we thank you for sharing your time with us today.
FM Can I say one more thing? You were going to ask me what my life is like now. I want your patients to know the difference between today and four years ago.
I no longer wake up afraid every morning.
I’m no longer afraid to socialize. The fact that I’m talking to you on the phone right now. I would not for thousand dollars have done that four years ago. I was scared to death of what I was going to say. I can drive now, I had to give up driving then .
I got my life back. And if they follow the program and they will get theirs back too.
I am the luckiest guy in the world.
CS: You’d said meeting Dale Bredesen in person really had quite an impact on you and your journey.
FM: I became a believer. Just as equally was meeting Julie, who was a woman that had already recovered who would have been just like me.
I’m telling you that when I read that original study, I had a glimmer of hope. Then when I went out to California and met those two, I had real hope. I mean, I came down to Mexico to die basically. I knew I was going to need around the clock care. I knew I needed to be in some small town. And I didn’t want to be around anybody I knew when I did it.
I love my life today.
I socialize as much now as I did when I was 30.
CS: Francis, I think that’s about all we’ve got time for today. But we want to thank you for talking to us. And we’re going to put up some links, which will link into your book as well. I think it’s a very, very inspirational story. And thank you very much very much for your time.
FM: Yes, thank you. It was a pleasure doing it. I got to tell you before we spoke, I said a little prayer. And I said, this conversation is not about me. And it’s not about my book. This is about other people. And that’s why I started writing. I started writing the book, because I was so depressed about having dementia. I said to myself, well, the only way I know how to get out of, you know, depression is find somebody else that’s got the same problems and work with them. And that’s what the book was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a book about hope.
CS: I think, absolutely, just giving hope to people out there and I think it’s a wonderful message.
FM: Well, the protocol is hard but when you think of the fact that your whole life is on the line, it becomes a lot easier.
CS: That’s very true. Absolutely. Yeah.
FM: Well, I appreciate what you ladies you’re doing.
CS: Thank you we will speak again soon.