Nancy Reagan's 'Long Goodbye'

ByABC News
September 7, 2000, 5:20 AM

N E W   Y O R K, Sept. 7 -- Nancy Reagan says the extraordinary lifeshes led with former President Reagan, who suffers fromAlzheimers disease, makes it hard to cope with the progression ofhis illness.

She also believes the condition accelerated after hefell off a horse and injured his head in 1989.

Mrs. Reagans comments appear in the final section of I LoveYou, Ronnie, a collection of romantic letters written by RonaldReagan to Nancy, whom he married in 1952. Published by RandomHouse, the book goes on sale today.

Long, Long Goodbye

Reagan, now 89, has rarely appeared in public since announcingin 1994 that he had Alzheimers, the degenerative brain diseasethat afflicts 4 million Americans. Mrs. Reagan calls Alzheimersa truly long, long goodbye.

She has been chief caregiver for her husband, and rarely travelsfarther than the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum inSimi Valley.

You know that its a progressive disease and that theres noplace to go but down, no light at the end of the tunnel. You gettired and frustrated, because you have no control and you feelhelpless, she writes.

Weve had an extraordinary life ... but the other side of thecoin is that it makes it harder. There are so many memories that Ican no longer share, which makes it very difficult. When it comesright down to it, youre in it alone. Each day is different, andyou get up, put one foot in front of the other, and goand love;just love.

Thrown From Horse

Until he was diagnosed in 1994, there were no symptoms ofAlzheimers, Mrs. Reagan says. But she does look back to the ridingaccident her husband had in 1989, a few months after he leftoffice. While vacationing at a ranch in Mexico the former presidentwas thrown from his horse and suffered a concussion and a subduralhematoma.

Ive always had the feeling that the severe blow to his headin 1989 hastened the onset of Ronnies Alzheimers. The doctorsthink so, too, she writes.