B. Smith has met many challenges in her life, and overcome them all. She’s been successful as a model, restaurateur, actress, author and television host. Now, she and her husband are standing against a new challenge together as Smith battles Alzheimer’s disease.
Smith appeared at the State House Thursday alongside husband Dan Gasby, Rep. Jenny Horne and representatives of the Alzheimer’s Association in an effort to increase awareness of the disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and will, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, cost the United States $236 billion in 2016 alone.
“We’re bringing this out of the shadows,” said Gasby, who spoke on behalf of his wife. He said Alzheimer’s, currently incurable, can be stopped with enough money. “We don’t have an intellectual drain. We have a lack of funding.”
Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2014, and told her husband “I don’t want anyone or anything to define me. I want to define myself.” Part of that effort is the recently published book Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s, which Smith and Gasby wrote in collaboration with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson. The book is a memoir as well as a call to action against the disease, which Gasby calls a form of “domestic terrorism.”
“You know that things can happen at a moment’s notice that will totally change things forever,” he said. “The things that we took for granted become extremely difficult.” Smith and Gasby emphasized the need of awareness of the disease and its symptoms, often confused with normal signs of aging.
“Any chance we get to bring a light to this situation, we want to,” Gasby said. “I want to see this put into the rear view mirror.”
Horne, whose mother-in-law is battling Alzheimer’s, invited Smith and Gasby to the State House as June, which is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, approaches. “Those of us who are in the club of Alzheimer’s caregivers know how devastating the disease can be,” Horne said. “We need to spend more money at the federal level on Alzheimer’s research.”
Cindy Alewine, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, agreed. “We need research and we need awareness, because so many people are still afraid to reach out for a diagnosis.” Alewine said more than half of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s go undiagnosed.
Smith and Gasby have been spending much of their time making appearances to raise awareness of the disease and funds for research for a cure. Gasby closed his State House remarks with a message for everyone, even those who have not been personally touched by Alzheimer’s. “The reason we need to do this is that the mind you save might well be your own.”
Pictured: Dan Gasby speaking at the State House Thursday as B. Smith and Rep. Jenny Horne listen (photo by Allen Wallace)