One evening, while watching a wedding scene from the TV show “New Girl,” Peter Marshall pointed to the screen and said to Lisa, “Let’s do it. Let’s get married.”
A very hesitant Lisa said yes, and the couple started planning their wedding. Except Lisa remembered that Peter was already her husband.
At just 53 years old, Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that causes memory and behavior problems. Now he’s 56, and Lisa says it’s hard to watch her husband gradually forget pieces of the life they’ve built after more than a decade of marriage.
“At first I wasn’t very excited about having another wedding. I just wanted my expectations low in case he wasn’t completely there on the wedding day,” Lisa told USA. TODAY. “The disease is so unpredictable.
The couple, who have been married for 12 years, met as neighbors in Harrisburg, PA. They were married to other partners at the time and even traveled on vacation with their respective families. Years later, Peter’s family moved to Connecticut and they lost contact. But after a year without contact, the two reconnected while they were both going through a divorce.
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In what Lisa describes as a whirlwind romance, they maintained a long-distance relationship until their kids graduated from high school. They married in 2009.
In 2017, Lisa’s Valentine’s Day gift to Peter was a trip to her doctor. Lisa and close friends had started to notice gaps in Peter’s memory, but Peter was in denial. When Peter struggled to form words and sentences, Lisa knew something was wrong.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 and retired; a year later, Lisa retired to become her full-time caregiver.
“It was like overnight he was diagnosed and our lives changed completely,” Lisa says. “Cognitively he is becoming a toddler and the disease is progressively so rapid.”
One night, on his way home from a vacation, Peter started pointing Lisa to the house they shared, as if she was a stranger. He took her to the house, showed her around and did not recognize that it was the house they shared. Then Peter started to brag about his wife, how beautiful she was and how much he loved her.
“It was the silver lining to me, that even though he didn’t remember it was me, the memory of me as a woman was still there. The love he has for his wife is still there. “Lisa says.
On April 26, Peter and Lisa got married. Every table, place, cake and detail was given to the couple. Around the time Peter was first diagnosed, Lisa started a blog, Oh Hello Alzheimer’s, where she documents her progress and journey as a caregiver. She has created a safe space where caregivers can listen, talk and express their difficulties and progress.
Through her blog and word of mouth, communities have come together to offer Peter and Lisa a second marriage. For Lisa, marriage was a way to keep a new memory with her husband for 12 years.
As a caregiver, Lisa says she finds solace and joy in helping the man she loves. Internally, she struggles with guilt when she asks for help or a break. On her blog and with friends, she urges caregivers to let go of guilt and prioritize their own health and needs when they can.
Every day, Lisa says, she witnesses the development of Peter’s Alzheimer’s disease. Every time she does, she’s grateful that she got the chance to marry him again, even though he’s not completely the man she once knew.
“He’s here to hold my hand and be there, but this disease is taking over so quickly,” Lisa says. “But no matter what happens in the next few years, we will always be together and I will always love him.”
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda