Imagine having to pay attention to every step as you compete in a race. Imagine being at the starting line wondering when your feet will start to burn. Imagine never knowing when your feet will cause you to trip and fall.
Long distance runner Chris Wodke faces these challenges every time she toes the starting line. Wodke has Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) disease. She and fellow Team CMT member Cheryl Monnat will be competing in the May 7 Door County Half Marathon.
CMT is the most common inherited neuropathy, affecting approximately 150,000 Americans. It is as common as Multiple Sclerosis, but most people have never heard of it, including many medical professionals. It is a disease she shares with her dad, sister and several other family members.
CMT is a slowly progressing disease causing deterioration of the periphery nerves that control the sensory information and muscle function of the foot, lower leg, hand, and forearm. It causes foot drop (inability to hold foot horizontal), high arches, hammer toes (end of the toes bend downward), problems with balance and hand function, lower leg cramping, and loss of normal reflexes.
For Wodke the foot drop causes her foot to catch while running. Sometimes there is burning, numbness and tingling in her feet. The muscles in her calves are extremely tight, which makes walking – much less running – difficult. Still, she feels lucky to be running. Most people with CMT have difficulty with standing, walking and doing simple tasks like opening jars.
When Wodke was diagnosed with CMT last August it actually came as a relief to know the reason for symptoms she has had her whole life. She feels her ability to run is a gift and has founded the website http://www.run4cmt.com and has formed Team CMT. Team CMT are athletes dedicated to raising awareness of CMT and is currently recruiting athletes. The team will be competing in events around the county including the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. this October. You can learn more about CMT and how you can help on her website.
There is no known cure for CMT, although the gene that causes CMT has been identified and there is hope for a cure in the next 3 – 5 years. There is even hope a treatment may be found within the next 10 years to reverse the damage caused by CMT. That is what keeps Wodke and Team CMT members going.