|Paratriathlon National Championship Austin 2013|
"Don't let the noise of other's opinion's drown out your inner voice."- Steve Jobs
I knew it would happen sooner or later. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone questioned whether or not I have CMT.
Sometimes it's subtle, I catch doubt on the edge of a remark. Someone will say I can't believe you can run or your legs look so strong.
Right after Christmas I was following and contributing to a Facebook discussion. A mom had posted she was trying to decide if she and her son who both had CMT should try ice skating.
Opinions came in from all sides. People shared their opinions and experiences. Someone posted that since the skate was laced tightly to your leg having CMT did not matter. I shared how muscle weakness, weak ankles and balance issues caused from CMT lead to challenges for most of us affected by CMT when we try ice skating.
I posted that my niece who has CMT was a really good skater as a child but wears braces now. I also shared that as a kid my ankles were so weak I could not stand on skates, but that running had made my ankles stronger and I can now skate. Yoga has also helped with balance.
That is when the accusation came from Josh
"I'm going to go on the record that every time someone says "I have CMT, but my ankles got stronger by running" that person is probably misdiagnosed or has a very minor neuropathy. Running is something very rave for someone with CMT and getting stronger is a myth. We have a degenerative disease people."
He said it indirectly, but he was calling me a fraud or un-informed.
Last year when my neurologist asked to have me genetically tested I readily agreed because I knew this day would come. She thinks there is something special in my genetic make-up because I am so strong despite having an obvious case of CMT. I know my life long activity has kept me strong. So I don't think there is anything special about me genetically. Just a strong will and a long history of involvement in sports like running.
So yes genetic tests confirm I have CMT. Two very painful nerve conduction tests confirm I have CMT. In fact I have almost no nerve conduction in my arms. That means significant nerve damage.
Josh is seriously un-informed. The work of Dr. Chetlin has shown those affected by CMT can get stronger from exercise.
I also shared some of the things I experience with CMT and that on Team CMT we have 37 CMT affected athletes, many that run and run long distance. Two of us will run the Boston Marathon this year. Four others have completed the Iron Man Triathlon. Many of our members run long distance races.
I shared that my own dad is in a wheelchair due to his CMT and that I run to stay strong and avoid the same fate. I have chosen not to wait for my CMT to get worse.
Not one to stop while ahead Josh followed up his comment with another post.
"Oh....so I'm sitting around just hoping, eh? So you know me? I''ll take it to the next level and say you may be genetically diagnosed, but you have very little understanding/empathy for those who are actually debilitated by the disease. It may not be nice, but screw you and your elitist view. You enjoy your running around while you can and I sincerely hope you don't encounter someone like me who will quickly take away that entitle smirk off of your face."
The comments surprised me. They hurt and made me angry. I have seen this attitude a few times in the CMT community. Some think there is some kind of disability scale. Because you are more affected you can be as rude and angry as you like. Someact like this gives them the right to lash out in anger. Apparently Josh's anger extends to threatening me.
I expect ignorance and rudeness from those that do not have CMT, I never expected to find it within the CMT community. The really disturbing thing was that someone else had liked his comment.
I remember a women made some beautiful awareness bracelets she had up for sale on eBay. She had posted a link in one of the CMT Facebook groups. Someone attacked her because it was not going to help them directly. So here was someone using her talent to try and make a difference and she too was verbally attacked.
When the Bernadette movie came out I remember a facebook discussion saying negative things about her efforts.
We all need support. Everyone that has CMT is affected in ways that profoundly affect their life. We are not graded on a curve. You do not get to be verbally abusive and rude because your CMT is worse than mine.
As we continue to raise awareness more people with mild cases of CMT will be diagnosed and being active will be more common. Will they be allowed to be part of the CMT community? Or will they not be disabled enought for some? CMT is such an individual disease with a wide range of symptoms. I hope there is room for everyone in this community whether mildly or severly affected.
I made a choice early on to stay positive. I believe my ability to run and be active is a gift. My Team CMT members and I run for those that can't to raise awareness of CMT and money for research.
So Josh maybe you and others like you need to take a long look in the mirror. Maybe a more positive outlook on life and treating others as you would want to be treated would make your life happier. Maybe you need to stop and remember for a minute that CMT steals a bit of my life every day just like you. Your anger and negativity can suck the life right out of someone trying to make a differnce. If you cannot do anything to help, then at least endure your CMT with grace and dignity, rather than tearing down the efforts of those working for a cure.
Even though Josh's words hurt and made me angry I will continue to be a positive role model and provide encouragement for everyone affected by CMT. I will chalk up his comments for what they are. Ignorant remarks from someone who is angry and un-informed.
Founder & Manager Team CMT
Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a two time participant of the Boston Marathon. She was the 2012 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division. In 2013 she qualified as a member of the Team USA Duathlon Team. She will compete in 2014 at the Age Group World Duathlon Sprint Championship in Pontevedre
She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.
Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 142 members in 28 states. We also have members in
Vietnam, Turkey, Finland
If you wish to join us visit our web site; www.run4cmt.com
CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS). It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.
Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.
Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.
Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.
Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.