My story – which is extremely humble compared to many people I now cross paths with – began in 2009 with the diagnosis of stage three melanoma cancer. After three surgeries, that called for the removal of the right lymph sack from my groin, loss of a femoral nerve, and relocating muscles, I then moved on to chemotherapy – lovely interferon. Rehab began in the early part of 2010, to “train” my right leg to walk straight again, and eventually progressed to being able to run. Approximately nine months into rehab, my right foot began a painful process of contorting and contracting upon itself. Within a month, it was pretty much useless, what many would call a “club foot.” After six months of seeing numerous “specialists,” I finally received a correct diagnosis – dystonia.
Dystonia is a neurological muscle movement disorder, where essentially your brain is signaling the nerves to fire the muscles at an accelerated rate, in the opposite direction of normal. The end result is permanent extreme muscle contraction. To relax the muscles, and relieve some of the discomfort, I have to take a series of three botox shots every 12 weeks into my calf. The botox travels to the end of the nerves, and eliminates the nerves firing the foot muscles. With the initiation of this procedure, I relearned to walk straight again, but was unable to run without the use of an orthotic. After filling a closet with numerous useless orthotics during 2012, my search to find a comfortable, functional orthotic lead me to Beth Deloria and Allard USA. The Allard ToeOFF was spot on. It provides comfort, control, and confidence – and I can not begin to put a price on this, especially during rehab.
Although my walking and running now consists of being able to push off using only one foot, I still compete in numerous triathlons and running events each year – I’m just not as fast. But being fast is no longer important. My priorities now consist of enjoying the abilities I still have, while reaching out and encouraging others in our community with methods and means to remain active. As many of you reading this know, it’s not uncommon for the physical disabilities to take a back seat to the mental challenges faced, as a result of those disabilities. That’s why having the support of the community and efforts such as the “Get Back Up” campaign are crucial for maintaining a rich quality of life.