Pat Summitt Raised Alzheimer's Awareness Through Battle With Disease

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 21:28:01-04

Pat Summitt was known as a force both on, and off the court, and in the final years of her life, she helped raise awareness and research money for Alzheimer's research by sharing details of her condition publicly. 

In 2011 after receiving her diagnosis, Summitt released the news in a video for the whole world to see, saying, "Earlier this year, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed me with an early onset Dementia, Alzheimer's Type, at the age of 59." 

The short video posted by Summitt put Alzheimer's Disease in the national spotlight.

"Her bravery of coming out and saying, 'this is what I have, this is what's going on,' really did tremendous amounts to raise the awareness of the disease," Jim Ward, president of the Alzheimer's Association Mid South Chapter, said. 

Alzheimer's is a disease that impacts almost every family in some way. There are currently more than 5 million Americans living with the disease. 

"Alzheimer's is a fatal disease, and many people don't recognize that," Ward explained. 

Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, more deadly than breast and prostate cancers combined. 

Ward said while Summitt knew what she was about to face, she didn't back down. "She didn't ask for the cards to be dealt that she had, but she took them and she dealt with them in a spectacular way." 

Summitt Launched the Pat Summitt Foundation in 2011 and worked with multiple Alzheimer research groups to try and raise money, and find a cure. 

"I think she really did the field a great service," Dr. Laura Dugan, professor of geriatric medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said. 

Dugan and many others have been working for years to find a cure for Alzheimer's, but at this point, there are more questions than answers surrounding the disease.

There is no cure, and there are no treatments for Alzheimer's, a disease that slowly eats away at your memory before taking your life. 

"This is one disease that truly can take away the person long before they pass away," Dugan said. 

Despite her disease, Pat Summitt lived her life to the fullest and never backed down. 

Summitt once said, "You can't always control what happens, but you can control how you handle it."

Summitt handled her battle with Alzheimer's with grace, and bravery, paving the road for increased awareness about the disease, and hopefully helping lead the charge toward a cure.