'Sandy's Superheroes' Share Story Of Early-Onset Alzheimer's - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

'Sandy's Superheroes' Share Story Of Early-Onset Alzheimer's

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On the ninth and 10th of November, Citizens Bank Park was filled with walkers doing their part to help end Alzheimer's. While many picture the elderly when thinking of the disease and its devastating effects, there is a different picture that some of those walkers see.

"Would have never thought when I was younger that my two sisters would get something like this," reflects Debbie Palek.

The "something" that Debbie Palek is talking about is early-on-set Alzheimer's.

"My older sister passed away 10 years ago," she says. "My younger sister passed away two and a half years ago…early onset Alzheimer's."

Debbie's little sister Sandy was just 48. She was diagnosed in her late 30s, at a time when she should have been enjoying her husband and young kids and not dealing with what a lot of people consider an "old person's disease."

"You start to see some signs of memory loss and forgetfulness…also sometimes just this stare that they had," recalls Palek.

"My mom would forget a lot of stuff. I feel like there are other little quirks that you can pick up on but nothing I feel like can be explained; just seen," Sandy's daughter Christine recalls.

Just months after Sandy's death, her family decided to walk to bring attention to the often overlooked part of Alzheimer's.

"I think that if more people are aware that younger people do get it today. The percentage is low, but it's there," she says.

Sandy's now 21 year old daughter Christine led the charge.

"I randomly decided to get everything together. I started raising money right after the funeral, started getting people together. That was our biggest year…" she recalls.

Sunday, 11/10 was the family's third year taking part in the walk to end Alzheimer's. Their team was "Sandy's Superheroes."

"I felt like it hit home a lot more. People started coming out of the woodwork and coming and now we're a big team every year, about 60 people," said Christine.

"Finding a cure is the biggest thing, I think, finding a cure for Alzheimer's and especially early-onset," said Palek.

As they walk, Sandy's Superheroes do more than just raise money for research, they tell Sandy's story, so others know what to watch for.

"If they are in their late 30's, 40's, they could be dealing with it," said Palek. "We didn't realize that's what it really could be. I don't think of Alzheimer's as a young person, I think that's the key."

Debbie Palek has been tested and she says that she doesn't have early-onset Alzheimer's like her sisters did.

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