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Admitting Defeat, and Moving On

Biking over the Brooklyn Bridge with Don

I am finally admitting defeat. My foot pain, stemming from self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis, is not going to just "go away" on its own. I've been mostly ignoring it for over seven months. I ran all winter and spring, dutifully taking Naprosyn after my runs and stretching briefly but otherwise brushing it aside. I ran a half-marathon in January and kept up with eight-to-ten-mile long runs on weekends. Now I have to stop.

 

I usually try to practice what I preach as a physician. I embrace a healthy lifestyle, including daily exercise. I'm an ideal MS patient too. I take my medication regularly, and I never miss a test, a doctor's visit, or an infusion.

 

But cutting back my mileage on runs to appease my sore foot has felt wimpy, even as I limped around the rest of the day.

 

Now I've resolved to change. I am officially taking a break from running and getting serious about healing this injury. I'm going to be a good patient.

 

The timing is not quite coincidental. With Austin's high humidity and LOW temperatures in the mid- to-upper 70s, summer runs are usually pretty miserable. Still, the lake beckons, my dog gets antsy, and we have to hit the trail. Just not this summer.

 

I have to be adaptable – not my strongest skill. In doing so, I will search for the unexpected benefits, the silver lining.

 

I found one already during our recent trip to New York City. After a long stroll on the first day, through Central Park and the Upper East Side, I realized that my foot would not permit another day of endless walking. I was disappointed: unrestricted wandering is my preferred activity on most vacations.

 

But our Plan B was even better. Don and I discovered CitiBikeNYC. For $13 each, we bought day passes for unlimited 30-minute bike rentals from any of the hundreds of CitiBike docking stations scattered around the city. We biked through lower Manhattan, over the Brooklyn Bridge (where the bike lanes were much less crowded than the walking lanes), and made our way to Brooklyn Heights, a part of New York City we had never visited. Throughout the day, we alternated biking and walking, logging roughly 12 miles on the bike and much less on foot. We saw far more than we would have without the bikes, and though my feet were still aching at the end of the day, I know the bikes reduced my discomfort.

 

These last few days, my feet got a real break with my return to work. I am creating a physical therapy plan for myself, and I have revised my daily exercise plan to avoid running or walking. Now I go to spin class, do a 21-minute circuit work-out,  hop on the trusty Stairmaster, or swim at Deep Eddy Pool.

 

I had dinner last night with Jess – my most consistent and much-loved running partner – and her family. It didn't quite replace our therapeutic talks on long runs together, but it was wonderful nonetheless (with the distinct advantage of Jess's terrific cooking and cherry pie for dessert).  I just wish I had a treadmill for the dog…

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MS150: Mission Accomplished

With my amazing riding companions - my cousin Bates and friend Cesar - on the "Challenge Route" of the MS150 Day #2 

I feel great today! I am sore and tired, but I accomplished my goal. I rode 168 miles from Houston to Austin on my bike this weekend. I raised over $5600 to fight MS. I bonded with my funny, caring, thoughtful cousin who I've barely seen in the last twenty years, and I made dozens of new friends. I shared my story on the CBS-Austin news: http://cbsaustin.com/news/local/traffic-delays-expected-as-2018-bp-ms-150-kicks-off  And I was proud to speak at the finish line. I've included my speech here. Please share your comments below:

 

What an exhilarating weekend! I am so proud and fortunate to have been a part of it. I didn't know if I'd ever make it through those Bastrop hills, but somehow I did and it is thrilling to be at the finish line. I want to thank the National MS Society, the Tacodeli team who took me in at the last minute, my friends who donated, my family who came out to support me and have been a critical part of my MS journey. Most of all i want to thank my cousin Bates and my new friend Cesar who drove all the way from El Paso to be my cheerleaders and companions on the awesome adventure we had this weekend.

 

I was diagnosed with MS 8 1/2 years ago, and I know that receiving such a diagnosis can be a scary and lonely experience. I didn't know if I'd be able to work or to parent my daughters. I certainly didn't think I'd be able to ride 168 miles from Houston to Austin on a bike! But after riding the MS 150 for the first time, I know I'm not alone and I'm not afraid any more to take on new challenges. Over ten thousand people came out with me this weekend to fight MS, to fund new research, to support people living with MS, many of whom were not able to be here riding with us. I am here, healthy enough to be able to finish this ride, because of my fellow riders and the many many riders who came out to fight MS over the years. I am so grateful to all of you.


Congratulations and thanks for making a difference in my life and the lives of so many others with MS.

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A Family Tradition

Mom and Dad joined me for an Earth Day bike ride this morning.

When I was a kid, a favorite family activity was biking on the weekends around Town Lake (now called Lady Bird Lake).  Before I could ride my own bike, my parents would carry my sister and me in little seats on the back of their bikes.

 

My mom first taught me – and later both of my daughters - to ride a bike. She pulled off the training wheels, gave me a good push, and cheered me on as I wobbled and then balanced on the bike, pedaling through soft grass in case I fell. Once I could ride alone, I would follow my parents as we pulled out of our garage, rode through nearby Westenfield Park, and hit the trail that carried us to the lake.  Sometimes we would take a break on the way, stopping under a tree where my dad would pull out his newspaper and maybe some Jolly Rancher candies. (I liked cherry; he liked cinnamon.)

 

Over the years and decades since, my parents have continued to bike regularly, and I go with them, usually around the eastern section of the lake, a few times a year. They also ride often in Washington D.C. I'm inspired by their commitment to this fun and healthy activity.

 

Today it was a treat to be joined by both my mom and dad on my last training ride on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. We talked about my kids, the week ahead, my upcoming bike ride; I don't think we even bothered to taint the morning with complaints about Trump. My dad wrote about our ride here: https://www.facebook.com/lloyddoggett/.

 

The bluebonnets are starting to fade, but other wild flowers are taking their place. We greeted many other cyclists, some training for the MS150 like me, and others just enjoying the cool, sunny morning. What a great celebration of Earth Day!

 

My family's support sustains me, and it will help me through those last tough miles next weekend to know they are waiting for me at the finish line.

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Biking with Gratitude (and My Mom)

On the Southern Walnut Creek Trail with my mom

I'm dizzy after my bike ride today: 40 miles on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail and around Lady Bird Lake with a little time on the road too. Dizziness is my most significant reminder of MS – it was the first major symptom I ever experienced and the annoyance that prompted me to seek out the doctor, who ordered the MRI, that led to my diagnosis.

 

But never mind! Today, my dizziness is overshadowed by gratitude. I am grateful for my mom, who accompanied me on my ride today (she is 71 and had a knee replacement last summer, but is unstoppable on the bike); for the cool, sunny weather (though maybe not so much for the overly exuberant breeze); for a functioning new bike; for my kids, who got themselves up and ready for the day without my help, while I completed my ride; for the support circle of people who helped cart my kids around to activities later today, giving me space to recover and write.

 

When I was out on the trails today, I realized that I am able to ride because of the millions of people who have trained and fundraised for this ride – and similar rides around the country – in the past. The commitment and concern of so many people over the years has enabled the discovery of medications and other treatments that now keep me, and so many others, healthy.

 

I remember hearing that just a couple of decades ago, the medical approach to MS was "diagnose, then adiós," meaning that after confirming a diagnosis of MS, the doctor would say good-bye because nothing else could be done. Back then, it was "5 years to a cane, 10 years to a wheelchair." But now -thanks to new medications, vitamin D, and a healthy lifestyle - 8½ years post-diagnosis, I am training to ride a bike 160 miles from Houston to Austin. Hallelujah!

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