Bill Buckner's Fight with Lewy Body Dementia

We all know that moments life hurt us, but what did you gain from your troubles?

What if I told you that there was a way to take the bad things that happened to you and positively redirect yourself because of them? Would you believe me? What if I showed you someone who was the subject of ridicule for one mistake at a “kid’s game” and that person realized, either consciously or unconsciously, that he became a survivor because of it? I think about former baseball player Bill Buckner, and I know it’s true. It’s as if the endless loops of that misplay in the 1986 World Series were just training for how to handle Lewy body dementia's nasty curveball.

What is Lewy body dementia?

Lewy bodies are abnormally folded proteins found in the never cells of the brain. Lewy body dementia is similar to Parkinson’s, so sometimes someone could be diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but he or she would actually have Lewy body dementia. Also, Parkie’s could have Lewy bodies, but not have this condition. The main difference, though, is the order of symptoms. Lewy body dementia has cognitive symptoms (for example, hallucinations and memory) before motor symptoms (for example, tremors and rigidity). Lewy body dementia also has an increased risk for suicide.

Robin Williams and Lewy body dementia

Robin William’s wife Susan wrote an excellent educational essay called “The Terrorist in My Husband’s Brain,” but it’s not “beach reading." Sadly, this is what caused him to take his life. For years, he was many characters from Mork to the Genie in Aladdin, and we also saw him in Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and that small part in Shakes the Clown. Sadly, neurological conditions don’t give a hoot who they hurt, so Lewy body dementia "vanished" Robin Williams. May he rest in peace.

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This shows us that we have to know how to fight these horrible life sentences with science, medicine, inner strength, and empathy. Love helps, too. I think it’s a good thing. Not losing our family, friends, and heroes is why we fight for a cure.

It’s all about people.

Who was Bill Buckner?

For those not familiar with Bill Buckner, he was a 21-year veteran in baseball. However, it wasn’t his batting prowess that stood out in his otherwise excellent career. It was one night in Manhattan, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when the Red Sox were one strike way from their first World Series trophy in almost 70 years when the wheels came off. One batter after another refused to go down for the Mets. Had Buckner stopped the ball, the Mets would have still been alive due to their sheer will to not be defeated. However, he didn’t. Mookie Wilson took first on an error, and Buckner was made the villain of New England when the Red Sox lost Game 6 and Game 7.

It took years, but Buckner eventually went back to Boston so the fans could apologize (after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004). It’s a very emotional moment seeing his expressions during the endless thunder of applause. The Curb Your Enthusiasm episode with him is emotional, too. Somewhere in between, Bill went to Idaho and found family, faith, and a job as a hitting coach for Boise State. The testimonials to his character are incredible. I can’t believe he came through that as strong as he did, but here was a new man after suffering. Nothing could sink Buckner's world.

Desirable difficulties

Generally, I tend to be a person who bases his outlook on all things scientific. Yes, I write about the paranormal, but that's fiction. Theoretically. However, for all my rational objectivity, sometimes I find myself looking at the larger picture of my place in life. For instance, I’m a big believer in being able to determine my own future, but there are times when I believe that the things that happen to us occur for a reason. Mind you, I don’t use this to say that Parkinson’s happened to us for "being bad." Instead, I believe we can find ways to use our bad times to improve other people’s worlds, which is why I advocate and educate.

Scientists call this learning “desirable difficulties” since the struggle makes us better.

In my own life, I think about all the moments that caused me to suffer. Be it Air Force Basic Training “redirections,” failures at school, relationship, friendship, or job, inabilities to be where I wanted to be in life, the rough times taught me that if I could survive them to be here now, I could make it through this, too.

Preparing for the worst

I’m a big believer in understanding what I can do before bad times happen. As an academic adviser, I’m here to keep student success going strong and their troubles from getting worse. When I was a student, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on overcoming a crisis of faith. As an active learner, I read books on survival stories, from authors like Victor Frankl and Jackie Robinson. I look at who has traits I want. In the end, even in our greatest turmoil, I feel there's a failsafe out there. The hurricane’s eye is calm, while the storm is all around. We’ll touch both places from time to time, but what we can control, we should.

Somehow, with my writer’s sense of being, I can envision Bill Buckner being like Lieutenant Dan in the storm, shouting at it, telling Lewy body dementia that it had nothing on the rabid fans of Red Sox Nation, and they couldn’t bring him down, so neither could it.

I think that would be a great movie image, even if it never happened.


The state of “incurable” shows other people how to live. We don’t need to be phony tough – far from it. Instead, we should be up front about our needs for help. We should strive to live life fully as long as we can and to show others our truth. Here, we can inspire the cure with our reality, even if it hurts to do it.

Here, we can live our life with a personal purpose. I try to be a better person and make sure my footprint on the lives I come in touch with is positive. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. I like to think I’m only part “knucklehead” now!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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