Former Milton MP Lisa Raitt is extending her gratitude to the late John Mann for bravely documenting his journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Raitt’s husband Bruce Wood was diagnosed with the disease in 2016 at the age of 56.
During an interview Friday on Metro Morning, Raitt said she and Wood had been closely following Mann during his final years as a source of inspiration and comfort.
“For me to watch them openly talk about it was incredibly important,” Raitt said.
“It allows me, in a strange way, to try to understand what the path forward is for Bruce and I as we go along in our progression as well.”
You can listen to Raitt’s conversation with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway below.
Mann, the frontman of folk-rock band Spirit of the West, died Wednesday in Vancouver at age 57. He was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014.
Around 16,000 Canadians live with the rare disease. It is defined as early-onset when a diagnosis is made before the age of 65.
Raitt prefers to use the term “young onset” to refer to the disease, which she said better emphasizes its devastating timing.
“Young onset is incredibly isolating and a very lonely disease,” Raitt said.
In 2016, Mann took part in the documentary Spirit Unforgettable, in which he discusses the struggles and challenges of living with the disease.
He also continued performing after his diagnosis, though he sometimes had to read from an iPad while on stage to not forget his lyrics.
Mann’s wife, the playwright Jill Daum, also wrote a stage production about a family’s experience with a degenerative disease.
“It’s invaluable because there’s not a lot of people you can lean on,” Raitt said of the family’s openness.
She said those projects have inspired her and Wood to continue speaking out while their family continues on a similar path.
“That’s a gift that we can give to the world,” Raitt added.