NEW YORK -- More than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. There is no cure, and many patients suffer in silence. Now, a public figure has revealed to CBS News that she is one of them: B. Smith, the restaurant owner, designer and decorator.
Asked what her Alzheimer's diagnosis meant to her, B. said, "It meant something bad -- really bad to me."
Barbara Smith was one of the first African-American models on the cover of Mademoiselle. In 1986, she opened her first B. Smith restaurant in New York City, and two more followed. She hosted a TV program, wrote books and was called the black Martha Stewart.
Around four years ago, B. told her doctor about her symptoms before she told her husband and business partner of 22 years, Dan Gasby. Those problems -- such as repeating things or not answering questions -- became very serious.
When B. spoke with CBS News, she could not recall the date, month or year.
"Things like that make me very sad," she said.
Eventually, she saw a team of experts at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, including neurologist Dr. Martin Goldstein.
Last October, a special scan was done to look for amyloid, a sticky protein that damages nerves and is present in patients with Alzheimer's.
"It's everywhere," Dr. Goldstein said of the scan.
Though symptoms have progressed, B. continues to have the same positive outlook that helped make her famous.
"I think the future's going to be fine," she said. "I'm going to do my best to make it work out for me, and for as many people that I can possibly help, too."
Illness, especially one as cruel as Alzheimer's, can tear families apart, but B. and Dan said it has brought them closer than they've ever been. They are in the battle together.
You can see more of Dr. Jon LaPook's interview with B. Smith on the June 15 edition of "Sunday Morning."