As movie “Still Alice” opens, two metro residents with early-onset Alzheimer’s share their stories

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- The movie "Still Alice" opens in Kansas City Friday. It's the story of a 50-year-old college professor who learns she has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.    Early-onset or younger-onset means the diagnosis is made before age 65. The emphasis for two metro residents with the disease is on living in spite of challenges with language and memory.

Click here for the list of KC- area theaters showing "Still Alice."

They're keeping the beat at Our Place.

"Oh, it's phenomenal," said Greg Peterson.

Marsha Bishop is also enthusiastic.

"They're my best buddies now," she said.

They spend two days a week at the Alzheimer's Association facility with others who have early disease.  For Peterson and Bishop, it was early-onset. Both now in the 60s, they were in their 50s when they had the first signs.   Just like the college professor in the movie, "Still Alice" who was diagnosed after she struggled for words as she lectured.

"I'm always trying to make everything....," said Peterson as he paused for a word.   " Oh, this is an Alzheimer moment," he added.

No joke in the case of the retired Kansas City, Kansas fire captain. Yet he still is the joker he says he was on the job.

In the movie, Alice goes for a run and doesn't know where she is. Bishop was diagnosed after she lost her way to her daughter's house.

"She called and said where are you at, and I said I have no clue where I'm at.  I don't know," Bishop said.

Yet the former fitness center franchisee is still her upbeat self, and that's why she doubts she'll see "Still Alice."

"Because I'm comfortable now," she said.

Peterson doubts he'll see the movie either.

"It's probably realistic in some way," he said.

But he says it also may be too much of a downer.  The fictional Alice has thoughts of suicide and comes close to attempting it.

Alzheimer's Association staff members say the support, activity and comradery at Our Place  can help those who are depressed. In spite of Alzheimer's, they're singing the song "Life Goes On."

"You deal with it and you smile and go on," said Bishop.

Alzheimer's Association staff members say they are glad the movie is creating awareness of the challenges of the disease. Yet they're discouraging clients with early disease and their family members from seeing the movie until they see it and can caution them about what's in it. They say it could evoke negative feelings.

For more on early-onset Alzheimer's, go to http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_early_onset.asp