You may think of Alzheimer's as something that happens late in life. But for thousands of Americans, the struggle can begin in their 40s or 50s.
As a longtime realtor, Ray Wells of San Gabriel is well-loved in his community. He's hoping to give some of that love back now while he still has time.
Applause erupted as Wells threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium last Friday. It was an unforgettable moment that he's fighting to hang on to.
"There is no cure, and there is no stopping or slowing down the disease," said his wife May Gonzalez.
Gonzalez recounted how his doctors suspected the 56-year-old may have had Alzheimer's since his mid-40s. Only recently, Gonzalez recognized her husband's occasional memory lapses were more than just forgetfulness.
"It's not like forgetting where your keys are," she said. "It's like forgetting everyday normal tasks like how to make a phone call on your iPhone."
Cognitive testing and an MRI revealed Ray is one of 200,000 Americans who struggle with early onset Alzheimer's disease.
"We were starting to talk about what we want to do 10 years from now, and that all changed," his wife said.
Instead of hiding and going into seclusion like so many people do, Wells is reaching out and sharing his journey so he can help others along the way.
In fact, his friends - some of whom have known Wells for 30 years - are riding their motorcycles all the way to Canada, calling it the "Ride for Ray." The goal is to raise money for research and help the family with the long battle they face.
Wells' friend of 30 years, Michael Darling, will be making the trip, along with another good friend, Roland Wilhelm.
"We're just trying to bring some light to it. Raise money because it's very expensive for the care that May is going to have to deal with," Darling said.
While Wells is understandably concerned about the future, he says the disease has taught him to focus on the present.
"Every day is special. Every day counts," he said. "I don't end any conversation with somebody without saying 'I love you.'"
You can track their progress on Facebook, and you can learn more about Wells' story from his family at https://www.gofundme.com/ride4ray.
San Gabriel man with early onset Alzheimer's hopes to help others
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