- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Cynthia Adams took a 2,400-mile trip down memory lane in late September.

It wasn’t something she planned. It just happened, she said.

Now the 52-year-old and her family are searching for answers to what triggered the four-day episode, which began when she abandoned daily errands after a Sept. 24 psychologist appointment and - without telling anyone - set out on a solo trip to her childhood home in Clara, Miss.

Adams has experienced memory problems, difficulty reading and other cognitive issues over the past five years. She had tests for Alzheimer’s and other dementia a couple of months ago. The results were negative, said her husband, Mel Adams.

“She has ‘Alzheimer’s tendencies’ and ‘bipolar ‘tendencies,’” he said. “She does not have the diseases, but characteristics that are similar. They’ve tested and tested.” On Thursday, her psychologist said she might have dissociative personality disorder with fragmented ego.

Cynthia, who goes by CJ, remembers most of the trip to Mississippi and what she was thinking at the time. She just has no idea why her life went so suddenly off course. “I was going to pick up my three best friends from my childhood:?Rosemarie, Kara and Donna,” CJ said.

She said the final destination for the impromptu trip with her buddies - who in her mind were still girls - was Palatka, Fla., where they’d meet up with two other friends. The Adams family also had lived in Palatka.

‘WAS SHE KIDNAPPED?’

Adams’ disappearance bewildered family, friends and Treasure Valley residents who read about her plight.

“You think the worst. You don’t want to but you do,” said her mother, LaWanda Richardson, of La Pine, Ore. She feared suicide, despite the fact that her daughter is an eternal optimist, even with long-term physical and mental ailments.

Adams’ husband, a handyman who runs his own business, checked his bank records and noticed a transaction at a gas station in Wyoming. That was cause for hope - but also alarm, because family and friends did not believe she would disappear willingly.

“Who is with her? Was she kidnapped?” friend Mary McKinney recalled wondering. Her darkest fear was that Adams had been “bumped off” and was in a ditch somewhere.

Mel Adams said he cut off access to the bank account in hopes that CJ would run out of money and call home. But the cash she had withdrawn before leaving Boise was enough to get her to the South.

CJ Adams had planned to surprise her Mississippi friends at church on Sunday. She didn’t get the happy reunion she’d expected. “She said, ‘Mama, mama, our house is gone, and the school has burned down, and the creek’s almost dry,” Richardson said, recalling the phone conversation she had after CJ was found.

HELP FROM STRANGERS, FAMILY

Adams said she doesn’t remember parts of her trip, or what she was thinking when she first left town. But she has clear recollection of stops along the way.

Someone at a rest stop in Mountain Home gave her tourist information for Yellowstone. At Yellowstone, she got confused by the different entrances to the park. She developed a feeling that she needed to go to Mississippi.

“I came across some of the most amazing people who protected me throughout the entire trip,” Adams said. “It was all in the Lord’s hands.”

A trucker she followed for hundreds of miles asked her if she was OK when they both stopped for gas.

“He said, ‘Hey, you’re my plus one,’?” she recalled.

She told him she was heading to Mississippi and didn’t have a map. Stopping for the night, he had her park her SUV between his rig and another. “She’s with us,” he told other drivers.

She slept in the back of her SUV and ate Cheetos, Doritos, a Payday candy bar and an apple. The following day when she stopped for fuel, an elderly couple helped her figure out how to use her debit card.

“For some strange reason, I?knew my PIN,” Adams said.

Meanwhile, her husband, friends and police were calling her cellphone. She’d muted it during her doctor’s visit, then forgot she even had one. It was later found between the seat and console, she said.

When her debit card was rejected at a store, she paid cash and continued her trip.

In Louisiana, some travelers asked her to take photos of them. She remembers being amazed that their cameras didn’t need film.

“Belief in God, faith in God, kept me safe,” she said.

UNHAPPY HOMECOMING

After four days, Adams arrived in Clara, Miss., early Saturday, Sept. 27. She decided to sleep in the parking lot of the church where her father had been a minister. She discovered her phone (which she thought was a camera) as she was laying out blankets for the night. The phone’s battery was dead.

In the morning, she went to the Clara Grocery. A worker told The Associated Press about that encounter: “She told us that she had got in at 1 o’clock in the morning and slept in her truck the night before,” Tina Brewer said. “She looked like somebody who’d been up all night. It was kind of strange.”

Brewer didn’t know Adams’ friends, but a group of old-timers in the store did. They helped her find a woman Adams grew up with - Elizabeth McCarty, now Singleton. Singleton welcomed Adams into her home and figured out what was happening when she found a Facebook page with a missing person’s notice about Adams.

Singleton quietly called Adams’ family. Adams was persuaded to let paramedics check her blood pressure, then take her to the local hospital.

“They must have all known that my cheese slid off the cracker, because they played it to the hilt,” Adams said.

In the hospital, she identified herself by her maiden name. She knew her date of birth and Social Security number, but not the year. She thought Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter was president.

On the phone with her mother, she found out that one of the friends she’d hoped to pick up in Clara had been dead for years.

“I just started bawling,” she said. “That was devastating to me.”

But another of her friends, Rosemarie, came to the hospital and helped bring her back to the present.

Her mother and father - long divorced, but still good friends - drove to Mississippi with her husband. The trio brought Adams home to Boise, despite her strong desire to continue on to Florida.

THE?DOWNHILL

Adams has spent a lot of time talking with family and friends about her medical issues. They’ve concluded that her health started going downhill after a near-fatal rafting accident on the Payette River in 2008.

Adams was thrown out of an inflatable canoe. She was thrashed in the rapids. She was face-down, underwater and unconscious, before being rescued.

Despite the trauma, Adams said, she declined transport by ambulance to a hospital because she didn’t have insurance. She also resisted her husband’s attempt to take her.

Six months later, she suffered a severe allergic reaction to a statin drug she was taking for high cholesterol. She suffered severe flu-like symptoms. She began losing her ability to read, play golf and other activities she enjoyed. She developed new allergies and experienced “weird twitches.”

Doctors diagnosed three autoimmune diseases - celiac, fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s (pronounced SHOW-grins) - and osteoarthritis. She has medications to deal with her significant physical pain, but hasn’t been able to sort out the mental issues, including sporadic memory loss.

She’s experienced confusion on her way to the store in the past, not remembering why she was going. She solved that problem by programming the route into her phone. Adams is a former member of Mensa (people with very high IQs). Her interests and talents include sewing, quilting, painting, sculpting and writing. She belonged to three book clubs and had a strong memory for numbers. She published a book about how acupuncture cured her dachshund’s paralysis (Sasha, the dog, has since died).

“There’s nothing I cannot do,” she said. “There’s nothing I cannot understand.”

Now she can’t read much, because she finds herself reading the same line over and over.?She has trouble working a 10-key adding machine. She experiences vexing forgetfulness.

“It’s highly possible I won’t remember you being here,” she told a reporter this week.

Brain scans have revealed no abnormalities, such as missing spots or plaque associated with Alzheimer’s.

STAYING POSITIVE

Adams said that despite her pain and problems, she’s positive about life. She’s grateful to have a loving, supportive family, including a husband of 27 years and a mother who is “my best friend.” Her friends include dachshund owners all over the world.

On Thursday, she was working on finishing a window shade for her father’s bedroom. He moved into her house three months ago.

Her family is making sure someone stays with her at all times, and she no longer has access to money.

Adams’ doctor also advised her to keep Harry, her beloved service dog, with her because he helps keep her grounded in the present. Harry’s a medical alert dog, trained to alert to migraines, diabetes and seizures.

She’d left Harry at home when her life went off track.

“My doctor said, ‘If it happened once, it can happen again,’?”?she said. “I can’t ever trust myself. I can’t imagine what my family feels.”

Adams admits that she’s scared.

“What if one day, I’m not me?” she said. “I’m worried I’m losing my grip on my own world.”

___

Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com

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