TAMPA, Fla. — More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and a vast majority of them are older than 75 years old. But there is a group in their 50s who will develop the disease as well. It's called early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Bobby Marshall is a former high school teacher with Hillsborough County, but just seven years ago, he and his wife Sandy noticed something was off with his memory.
“She said I really want you to go get a baseline, and we can do another in five or 10 years down the road but let's go get a baseline to make sure everything is ok,” explained Bobby. “We went and had a baseline, and sure enough, early-onset Alzheimer's.”
Bobby was just 55 years old at the time. The Marshalls said the diagnosis was caught early enough they could prepare for what was to come. But just knowing that eventually, everything will be lost to the fog is tough to take.
“The part that gets me is I know eventually I'm not going to remember them, and that's the part that kills me. That's the hardest,” said Bobby.
“He doesn't find words. He loses them. He loses the words often. But you don't try to put the words in his mouth either,” explained Sandy.
At the height of the pandemic, Alzheimer's got to be too much. In 2020 Bobby had to retire from teaching at Lennard High School. His fellow teachers and students knew why. They said goodbye online and sent cards. Some even took part in a drive-by to say thank you.
Bobby and Sandy know eventually that days will be permanently erased if there is not a cure soon. Although there will be mood swings and anxiety, there will also be new memories.
“He got diagnosed. We get Disney passes for three years," said Sandy. "We go like all the time.”
Alzheimer's can rob us of so much time, but the last thing that always seems to go is love.
“I’m pretty sure I said for better or worse, just so you know," said Sandy.
"She's got a good point. She does. Sometimes she gets it right,” said Bobby.
Bobby recommends that everyone goes and gets a baseline cognitive test. It's just a memory test, no poking or prodding. It's usually free online or at clinics across the Tampa Bay area.