'Never give up': Conservative MP Lisa Raitt's husband has Alzheimer's
OTTAWA -- It was people at work who first noticed. Bruce Wood, the husband of Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, was having trouble remember things. The 56-year-old president of the Hamilton Port Authority would miss meetings or not remember people's names. Sometimes he'd have trouble finding a word.
A doctor referred them to a specialist, who did some cognitive testing, and gave them the diagnosis May 22: early onset Alzheimer's.
"It's rare in early onset, and there's no defined timeline," Raitt said in an interview with Don Martin, host of CTV's Power Play, three weeks after Raitt and Wood married on Cape Breton.
"I don't know how long I'm going to have the best husband in the world, but I'm going to have it as long as I can, and I'm a fighter," Raitt said.
"I don't focus and dwell on the sad parts. That's a story to be written. I don't know how this ends, but in the meantime we got married, we had a great wedding, [and] I'll continue to fight to ensure that he gets the best care possible."
It's not clear what the prognosis is -- it could be 20 years, Raitt said. Wood is no longer working, but stays home in Milton when Raitt travels to Ottawa. The family is adapting to the diagnosis by having set places for household items.
"I can find anything in the house at any given time. So when he says, 'Do you know where my phone is,' I actually do know where it is. And we have places where we keep everything. We're a far more organized household," she said.
They also ensure he eats and sleeps well, and Raitt says she'll focus on pushing for a cure, as well as for greater awareness of the early symptoms.
"They often say that you're probably a year and a half in before you realize that you should go see a doctor," Raitt said.
Raitt stood in the House on Wednesday to make an emotional statement marking World Alzheimer's Day. In it, she thanked caregivers who support the families of Alzheimer's sufferers.
"I have a caregiver role with my kids, I will have a caregiver role in the future with my husband. That's just the way it is, and we'll continue down that path," she said.
"He beats you in golf, Don, quite frankly...he's very good at golf," Raitt said to Martin. "And he still has his driver's licence, but it's kind of opened my eyes to the struggles that Canadian families have when it comes to a diagnosis like this, which is shocking."
Raitt, the Conservative finance critic, is one of the more prominent MPs considering a run for the party's leadership. She says her husband supports her political career "100 per cent."
"Every family who ends up with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, regardless of the age, you do have to take stock of how you're going to balance it all out. And I have great neighbours, and we have great family."
And most of all, she said, "Continue to fight. Never give up."