I confess...I'm not loving my new book but it has sparked an old line of thought.
The book tells a story of early onset Alzheimer's from the viewpoint of the patient. The protagonist notes she'd rather have cancer than Alzheimer's, noting the dignity lost with a mental decline and just the different way people treat different patients.
I've often wondered whether I'd prefer to have my body go (not in a vanity sense, true and severe functional loss) or my mind. I think it depends on how thorough the loss is and the degree to which I have to prepare to face it. If it were sudden and pretty complete, I might prefer to give up my mind...if I didn't have to KNOW it was gone, it might not be that bad. It would be MUCH harder though if it included moments of lucidity or just an awareness that I'm not functioning. And it might also be an extra challenge to have it be progressive, to know what is coming and to take every little error as a sign.
But, if it were total and sudden....I think I might pick giving up my mind. I face pain with my body now but it generally functions. I think it must be horribly hard to be stuck in a body that you can't control (again, talking more than even just loss of a limb) and to be aware of related indignities. Or to have your mind but lose your communication abilities so you are "stuck" inside yourself. When my step-father's mom was losing mental capacity, she often thought she was decades in the past. Someone noted that it might not have been a bad thing...she was really happy in that time. She didn't seem to know what she'd lost. She felt good....though it was hard for those around her.
Which sparks another thought...I imagine it is harder to care for one who has lost mental capabilities than one whose loss is physical. When the mind goes, they often need help on the body side too. Does that make my "preference" (that's a terrible sounding word to use here but I can't do better) selfish?