Born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher Syndrome Type III, Rebecca Alexander has been losing her sight and hearing since she was a child and was told that she would likely be completely blind and deaf by thirty. Now, at thirty-five, with only a sliver of sight and significantly deteriorated hearing, she is a psychotherapist with two masters' degrees. Not Fade Away shares Rebecca's extraordinary story; it is by turns harrowing, funny and inspiring.
Rebecca Alexander (Author) Rebecca fell in love with all things sorcery, magic and witchcraft as a teenager and has enjoyed reading and writing fantasy ever since. She wrote her first book aged nineteen, and since then has been runner up in the Mslexia novel writing competition and the Yeovil Literary Prize 2012.
Trained in psychology and education, and having researched magical thinking in adults for her MSc, Rebecca met some really interesting people in some very odd circumstances, which she could no longer resist writing down.
She lives in a haunted house by the sea with her second husband, four cats, three chickens and the occasional rook.
"A remarkable story of resilience and heart, Not Fade Away follows Rebecca Alexander as she must navigate the world cursed with a rare genetic disorder that will one day rob her of both sight and hearing. Bereft of self-pity, funny, and bursting with honesty, Not Fade Away will get its hooks in you. I promise that by the end of her story, you will fall just as in love with Rebecca as I have." --Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire "Her eyes and ears may be declining, but Rebecca's sense of self is sharply focused and profoundly tuned. By sharing her life, she has enriched mine and will yours, too. I love this woman." --Meredith Vieira
"There is a saying that goes--you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Rebecca Alexander's indomitable spirit spills out on to the pages of this incredible memoir. She will lift you up . . . the way she did for me." --Hoda Kotb, New York Times bestselling author of Ten Years Later and Hoda, and Emmy-award-winning anchor of the Today show
"An honest and eloquent look at life . . . Alexander emphasized the importance of embracing the here and now, of being present and grateful for the gift of life, in whatever shape it might take." --Kirkus Reviews
"Profoundly inspiring . . . [Rebecca's] ability to find so much to be grateful for after being dealt such an unfair hand challenges those of us with far fewer hardships to treat each day as a gift." --Publishers Weekly
"Wise and realistic instruction in intentional living, grace, and overcoming obstacles great and small." --Booklist
"A remarkable story of resilience and heart,
Not Fade Away is both a memoir of the senses and a unique look at the obstacles we all face-physical, psychological, and philosophical-exploring the extraordinary powers of memory, love, and perseverance. It is a gripping story, an offering of hope and motivation, and an exquisite reminder to live each day to its fullest.
1 Even though the doctor''s office was warm, I was freezing. A nineteen-year-old California girl in the midst of my first winter at the University of Michigan, I couldn''t shake the cold that seemed to seep into everything. Though my hair and many layers of clothes had long since dried from my wintry trek through piles of mounting snow to the school''s medical campus, I could still feel the chill in the constant ache down my leg and into my foot that never quite went away, making my limp even more pronounced. The office was spare and bright, and as I sat there, aimlessly looking around, legs tucked under me as I absently rubbed my stiff ankle, I thought about how many rooms I''d been in just like this one. Days of tests and waiting, and more tests, and more waiting. This time I was here for the ringing in my ears, a relentless noise that had followed me for weeks, perpetually making me feel as though I had just left the loudest rock concert imaginable. Sometimes it completely drowned out other noises; at other times it whined incessantly in the background, keeping me awake at night, making me feel as though I was losing my mind. I knew what it was called--tinnitus, from the Latin word meaning "to ring"--but that didn''t come close to describing what I was experiencing. It felt as though it was coming from inside and outside of my head, reverberating against my eardrums, something so obviously real that it seemed impossible that nobody else could hear it. When someone spoke to me, no matter how quiet it was around us, I felt like I needed them to raise their voice above it, the way they would if a fire engine were screaming by, or, better yet, speak directly into my ear. Please just let this go away, I kept thinking. What I didn''t know at the time was that the ringing would never go away, that it would become my constant companion, and that in time I would learn to tune it out almost completely, a noise so familiar that I would sometimes have to strain to hear it at all. The door opened, and a doctor who appeared to be in his midforties walked in, followed by a few awkward-looking residents who quickly jockeyed for place around him, all trying to get a good look at the patient. The doctor, brisk and forthright, asked if they could stay while he went over my diagnosis with me. I nodded, smiling at them, feeling bad because I could tell that things were not good, and that they were going to have to listen to the doctor give a diagnosis that none of us wanted to hear. But they averted their eyes from my gaze, looking busily down at their clipboards, not yet having mastered the specialist''s casual smile: persistent, even in the face of very bad news. Though we weren''t aware that anything was wrong until I was twelve, it was there all along, lying in wait, showing itself in ways too subtle at first to notice. Ours was always the fun, boisterous house, the one all of the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out at, full of laughter, music, and roughhousing. My brothers and I were athletic: heedlessly racing, chasing and slugging it out when we fought. When our friends came over we would take countless screaming, bumpy rides in our sleeping bags down our long stairway and run wildly through the house. All of which probably made it harder to notice my clumsiness--though I was always the one tripping over things, banging into them, getting hurt. Being the only girl of the three of us, I shook it off, determined to be as tough as my brothers were. Even though Daniel and I were twins, while Peter was three years older, I always felt like the youngest, trailing after Daniel--brilliant, athletic, beautiful Dan, already the superstar of everything--determined to try to keep up. In ballet, too, I was the clumsy one, awkward and off-kilter. In my pink tights and tight bun that I brushed incessantly to keep smooth, I was so eager to be graceful. But no matter how hard I tried I could never maintain my balance while holding my positions or float across the floor like the other girls. My stern, ramrod-straight instructor scolded "Rebecca" so often that I began to sneak out of class, hiding in the dressing room and eating my snack of Goldfish crackers in an attempt to avoid further humiliation. There were other signs, too, like the way I would turn my head sideways to watch TV, cocking my left ear toward it while looking out of the corners of my eyes, or the way I seemed to tune out sometimes, especially when I sat in the back of the classroom, leading my teachers to refer to me as a "dreamer," which even then I knew was code for "not paying attention." But none of this was out of the ordinary enough to catch anyone''s attention in our busy, noisy household. Really, though, it goes back so much further than my childhood, long before Daniel and I floated safely together inside my mother, a yin-yang of boy and girl curled against one another, when no one could have imagined the terrible and wonderful things growing inside of each of us. Back to Eastern Europe, most likely Kiev, where both of my parents had ancestors. Their numbers shrunk from countless pogroms, cousins would marry, and carry with them a single mutated gene that ended up here, inside of me, invisible, until at twelve I started having trouble seeing the blackboard. Although our house was a loud one, with rarely a silent moment, as a younger child I remember it as mostly joyful noise--laughing, talking, and lots of singing. We each tried our best to be more clever than the next, knowing that it pleased our parents, rapid-fire jokes and witty retorts tossed back and forth. My mother had at one time sung professionally, and we would often crowd around her at the piano, belting out show tunes as dramatically as if we were on Broadway, until she would stand up and lead us singing and dancing up the stairs to do our homework. Quiet felt so strange to me that I used to feel uncomfortable when I was alone, turning on the television or music for noise, much happier and better able to relax with plenty going on around me--so different from now, when silence often feels like my salvation. That all changed when I was ten, a couple of years before we started to notice my vision problems, when a new noise started creeping around our house. At first it was barely noticeable, angry whispers through gritted teeth. Eventually my parents'' fights grew louder, screaming matches where my brothers and I would race in, pleading for them to stop or trying to entertain them, anything to make it go away. By the time they started to notice something was wrong with me, they were already separated, caught in that hazy "trying to work it out" phase, which we could all tell wasn''t working. My dad had taken me to the optometrist after I told him that I was having trouble seeing the blackboard at school, assuming that I needed glasses. The doctor had frowned through much of the exam--a look I''ve gotten to know well over the years--and at the end of the appointment told my dad that he had seen something in the back of my eye that needed to be examined more thoroughly, but he didn''t have the equipment or the expertise to properly evaluate it. So we were referred to an ophthalmologist, and then another one, and another. We went to see specialists at the University of California-San Francisco and Stanford, and eye charts were replaced with increasingly complex equipment and tests, one of which required me to have hard lenses with wires coming out of them attached to my eyeballs, while another had me staring at bright flashing lights as long as I could without blinking. I kept thinking, All this just to get glasses? Each time, I waited for the doctor to come out with a smile, to nod and tell us that he''d figured it out, that things were just fine, they''d fix me right up. In one test I was given several times, I would sometimes press the button to signify that I''d seen the little flashing light even when I hadn''t, wanting to make everyone proud. I wanted to ace these eye tests, to have everyone tell me I had done a great job, to get to leave and pick out a cute pair of glasses, go home and stop thinking about my eyes and my parents'' fights and their worried glances at me. I wanted to worry about twelve-year-old things, hanging out with my friends and spending hours on the phone with them, talking about boys, what we would wear to the upcoming middle school dance, and whether or not one boy or another liked us as "more than just a friend." Eventually, the diagnosis came. The doctors told my parents that they thought I had something called "retinitis pigmentosa," an incurable, inherited disorder that meant the cells in my retina were slowly dying. They explained that I would most likely be blind by the time I was an adult, and my parents had to decide how to break this news to me. How do you tell your child this? What words can you possibly find to explain this to a young girl? I can''t imagine their heartbreak, knowing that someday their daughter would no longer be able to see them, or her brothers, or the world around her. From the start my mother was convinced that I should have all the information, that it was my body and that the more I knew, the more I could prepare and find ways to help myself face, emotionally and physically, what lay ahead. If I knew, she argued, I would understand why some things were hard for me, that it wasn''t my fault that I couldn''t see a tennis ball coming, or had so much trouble in dance, or couldn''t see my way to the bathroom at night without banging into things. She knew this was a challenge I had no choice but to rise to and fully believed that even at my age I should be allowed the responsibility of understanding. My father vehemently disagreed. I was, in his eyes, still his little girl. He was terrified that I