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Former Olympian raises awareness as she battles younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Connecticut Families

MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — “When I heard my name, I just yelled,” says Dorothy Franco-Reed, recalling the jubilation she felt when she was chosen to be a member of the USA handball team at the 1984 Olympics where she met first lady Nancy Reagan.

“What a sweet, sweet woman,” she says. “I gave her a hug, and I was careful because she was kind of fragile. I said, ‘Sorry, Mrs. Reagan.’ She said, ‘Oh no, you’re fine!’ She was great.”

Memories she cherishes as this 62-year-old mother of two battles younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“She’s approaching it the same way she approached trying to become an Olympian,” says her husband, Tom. “You have to go after it and fight, do whatever you can to combat it.”

Right now, that means participating in the clinical trial of a drug that could make a difference.

“I’ll be a guinea pig that’s fine. If they’re doing trials and not sure it’s going to work, someone has to be there…you know, I think of my mom,” says Dorothy, filled with emotion.

Ironically, she cared for her mother for years as she also suffered from the disease.

But this Milford family believes a cure is possible. That’s why they take part in the New Haven Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“I think we raised like $8,000 for the walk last year, it was great, so fun,” says Tom.

Much like a medal, Dorothy held up a blue flower, honoring patients.

“I was so excited with that flower because it meant so much, symbolized what was going on, represents the folks, yeah, it was a very profound moment for me,” she says.

Even though the walk will be held this year in neighborhoods, with small groups of families, the Reeds aim to raise awareness with the courage and tenacity of a winning team.

“I’m not shameful at all about this disease…it is what it is,” says Dorothy. “You get what life brings you and you make the best of it.”

“She’s going to do whatever she can to fight and strive for her goals,” says Tom.

Click here for more information about this year’s New Haven Walk to End Alzheimer’s taking place Sept. 26.

Check out this link to learn more about the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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