Personality, Coping, and Primary Progressive Aphasia

Each of Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s siblings copes with news of their mother’s primary progressive aphasia differently. Their personality informs how they react to the crisis.

How families cope is the topic of this latest installment of our online book club speaking about Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s book, Where the Light Gets In. She writes about her mother’s experience with primary progressive aphasia.

Kimberly’s Reaction

Kimberly explains her reaction to her mother’s diagnosis on page 72:

For the most part, I stayed true to my mother’s request for the time being, discussing her illness only with Brad and my siblings. I hoped it wasn’t as bad as doctors were saying, and I figured we could deal with it when we needed to. I was much more comfortable distracting myself with work, our new puppy, Holler, and married life.

She follows her mother’s request not to discuss the disease outside their immediate family. Kimberly’s sunny, hopeful personality takes over, and she goes the optimistic route. She distracts herself with pleasant things such as her husband and work. She hopes for the best, choosing to deal with issues as they come up rather than before they happen.

Jay’s Reaction

She continues by stating how her brother copes with the news:

Because Jay was now a paramedic firefighter, he looked into Mom’s medical data, trying to boil down her disease into numbers he could understand and use to help her. He also agreed not to talk about it outside the family.

Jay tries to bring control to an out-of-control situation by assessing the medical information. His helpful, pragmatic approach is meant to combat fears with facts.

Ashley’s Reaction

Finally, Kimberly writes about her sister, Ashley:

Ashley dove into research in a way that no one else had the guts to. She wanted to live out the journey we were facing before it happened so that she could be better prepared when it came. Of the three of us, I found out later, she was alone in knowing about the extent of the testing while it was happening. My mother had asked her not to tell the rest of us. So she didn’t.

Instead of looking at what they know now, Ashley looks into the future to prepare them for what’s coming down the road. She’s a planner and an information gatherer.

A Three-Prong Approach

Each sibling brings something important to the table that helps all of them cope with their mother’s diagnosis together. Kimberly provides optimism so they can continue to hope. Jay provides context for current data, and Ashley looks toward the future to help them prepare. Each unique personality fits together to form one, strong family unit.

How much does our personality come into play when coping with aphasia?

Image: Karl Magnuson via Unsplash



  • Barb Murphy
    November 14, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    We just returned from the PPA study at Northwestern University. A week filled with cognitive tests, MRI’s, Pet scans…all trying to find out the link between all the PPA patients in the research. My husband went thru the testing all in hopes that he can help someone in the future. They will do a phone interview in a year and then we return to Northwestern in two years for the same testing so they can compare results. We are also enrolling in the Speech study at Northwestern for PPA patients all designed by speech pathologists for PPA patients.

    Anyone else with PPA interested in becoming part of the study at Northwestern? You can access all the information online. Here’s hoping the research will help discover why this terrible disease is attacking those we love.

  • Susan Malkowski
    November 16, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Im 72 and was diagnosed 2 yrs ago with NON STROKE PPA. I am a very independent person & am afraid of what i will become in the future. Already seeing changes i am not happy with. I am very active doing Tai Chi for 12 yrs & donate my time to thr Foredt Preserve & PADS. Would like to lesrn about the studies at Northwestern. I live in nw suburbs of Chicago.

  • Anonymous
    November 17, 2018 at 7:42 am

    i was born with aphasia but that didn’t stop me from getting my grade 12. i also self-published a poetry book called Emotions, i was in the local newspaper. now i want to become a member of the league of the canadian poets

    melissa weiler

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