A 31-year-old newlywed from the U.K. was diagnosed with dementia only months after her wedding day — and is one of the youngest cases her doctors have ever seen, People reports. Becky Barletta is suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of the disease that affects the front and sides of the brain and leads to issues with behavior and language.
Before her decline, Becky was a ski instructor with a reputation for being friendly and attentive to her clients. She had studied photography and even volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal. “I was always so proud of her, so proud to say: ‘My sister is a ski instructor.’ I wasn’t jealous of her but she was like ‘the blonde bombshell’ compared to me,” sister Sophie Gilbert told the Cambridge News. “She was authentically beautiful. She was outdoorsy and outgoing. Everybody loved Becks, she was beautiful. She still is.” She had been looking forward to getting married and having children with her husband, Luca.
But as her wedding approached, something changed in Becky. She became obsessive about fitness, and neglected to take care of her skiing students in the way she used to. Her friends thought it was just wedding jitters at first, but things kept getting worse. At first she resisted medical care, but her sister ended up convincing her to get checked by volunteering to get tested herself, too.
Becky was diagnosed with dementia on August 24, 2016, when she was just 31 years old. And the condition is hereditary; her uncle died from the same disease in his 50s, and her cousin also succumbed to it in her 40s. Frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age than dementia, and most cases are diagnosed in people ages 45 to 65, according to the UK’s National Health Service.
Now 32, Becky is receiving 24/7 care at her parents’ home and her sister lives next door with her own family. Luca, who works in Switzerland as a ski instructor, flies to see her once a week. Her condition has rapidly declined, and now she apparently makes inappropriate comments and repeats stories over and over again. “There is nothing behind her eyes. It’s this glazed look,” Gilbert told People. “You wonder what is going on in her head. I just hope she’s happy in her own little world.” Her disease is likely to affect her ability to communicate, then even swallow; she is not predicted to live longer than 10 years.
Becky’s family is raising money for the U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society through a crowdfunding campaign. “While unfortunately this will not help Becky, we know she would want us to try and halt this vile disease in its tracks for the benefit of the future generations in our family and other families who have been affected by dementia,” the JustGiving page reads. So far, they have raised more than £7,000 ($9,200).