On Tuesday Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, announced that she has the beginning stages of dementia, and “probably Alzheimer’s disease.” The 88-year-old said in a public letter that her diagnosis was made some time ago and that as her condition has progressed she is “no longer able to participate in public life.” O’Connor added, “while the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life. As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.” O’Connor’s announcement of her diagnosis came after a story was published that she had stepped back from public life. Her son, Jay O’Connor, said that his mother had begun to have challenges with her short term memory. O’Connor was 75 when she announced her retirement from the court in 2005, a decision which was influenced by the decline in the health of her husband, John O’Connor III, who himself had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. O’Connor last spoke in public more than two years ago.
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