Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Hilo’s Mary Gaddis uses exercise to fight Pseudomyzoma Peritonei – PMP

I recently learned that the country recognized an event on February 29 called “Rare Disease Day” which tried to bring public awareness to the many people afflicted with rare illnesses.

Rare and unusual disease occurs more often than one would suspect and to choose Leap Year to bring attention to such was no coincidence.

Hilo’s Mary Gaddis fits into both categories as she was born on February 29 and also had the unfortunate experience of encountering a rare disease called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei or PMP.

Gaddis grew up in central Texas, until her professor parents moved the family to Rio Piedras in Puerto Rico.

“It was an idyllic childhood with lots of kids my age, a lot of freedom to ride bikes, play and roam around safely in the faculty housing area where we lived,” Gaddis said.

 “My interest in fitness began my freshman year at the University of Texas in Austin when the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Program manual came out and I used it for several years,” she said.

Gaddis was fortunate enough to have a progressive university which developed one of the best physical education programs for women in the nation.

“The teachers encouraged me and strongly influenced me to want to be fit,” Gaddis said.  “I took a year and a half of gymnastics and worked out at the Women’s Gym on the nights it was open to students, and was also in the gymnastics club.”

In 1966 she got married to Ben Gaddis and in 1970 when Ben was offered a job at the Law Firm of Kanemitsu and Cook the couple made their way to the Big Island.  (Yes, Ben Gaddis spent several years on the bench in Family Court and is now a retired Judge)

 “We fell in love with Hilo and the Big Island as nearly every weekend we were off to Hapuna or to Kona for swimming, snorkeling and body surfing,” Gaddis said.

Gaddis spent 25 years teaching at a variety of schools and in the mid 1970’s was a lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

“I ended my teaching career teaching English as a Second Language at Hawaii Community College and retired about three years ago,” she said.

Today this 68 years young woman, who has celebrated 17 birthdays, continues to remain healthy and fit and credits much of her recovery battle against PMP to her healthy lifestyle.

PMP is a very rare, sleeper type of illness that is considered a cancer, but rarely moves into the blood stream.

“I had the typical experience; an attack of appendicitis in October of 2010,”  Gaddis said.  “The disease was discovered during the resulting surgery.”

PMP is so rare that few surgeons are familiar with it, but Gaddis was fortunate enough that the oncologist made the correct diagnoses.

“My oncologist advised me to seek a consultation at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston,” Gaddis said. 

Gaddis went to MD Anderson in August and spent a week having tests and being evaluated to see if she was a candidate for surgery.

“I was scheduled for surgery on November 14, 2011 and we returned to Hilo to wait and plan,” Gaddis said.

The major surgery usually last for 12 hours with the average post-operative stay being 22 days, but Gaddis is anything but average.

“Basic good health always plays an important role when undergoing a complicated surgical procedure, being fit reduces the risk of complications and death,” Gaddis said. 

Instead of 12 hours Gaddis surgery lasted 10 hours and her post op was only 11 days compared to the 22 for the average patient.

To prepare for the surgery Gaddis carefully chose a trainer, Robert Roos, from the BJ Penn Gym.

“I was deeply shocked by my overall weakness following the appendectomy and I was determined to go into the surgery in the best possible shape,” she said.

Gaddis discussed her needs with Roos and they developed a three times a week program a month prior to her departure to Houston.

Her trainer focused on her core strength and they worked on balance, which is important to post surgery.

 “Having well developed biceps and other arm muscles made it much easier for me to move myself in the hospital bed,” she said.  “I was able to do this by day three following the surgery.”

Gaddis’ overall fitness helped her to get up and walk and walking is crucial to preventing blood clots  and heart complications.

“The walking also helped keep my heart strong, speeded up my release date, as did my overall fitness,” she said.

Gaddis will continue to maintain her health and fitness by walking around in the Waiakea Uka neighborhood.

During the 1970’s as a beginning jogger she was fortunate that Kiyo Hamakawa took an interest in her.

“Kiyo was a graduate of a top notch PE University and he gave me lots of encouragement and pointers in developing a better jogging technique,” she said.  “His brother Fumi was another of my mentors.”

It was from those early days in Hilo that Gaddis learned to work on her cardiovascular system, which in turn has paid big dividends today in her overall fitness level.

Mary Gaddis is another success story on how our seniors can recover quickly from the heavy demands that surgery can play on the body.

Exercise is key to maintaining a productive body throughout our lives and we can all learn much from Mary Gaddis.

Edward Stanley wrote, “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

And someday should you happen to see a fit jogger come passing through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”


April 2, 2012 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hilo’s Violet Tanimoto Staying in Shape as she approaches 80

Violet Tanimoto, 78 years young

What would you do if you came to the realization that you were out of shape?

At age 36 Hilo resident Violet Tanimoto was asked to do a lap around the NAS complex before entering the pool and discovered that she was out of shape.

“I went to a fitness class at the NAS pool being given by Mr. Keliipio and he had us do some calisthenics first and before hitting the pool he told us to jog around the complex,” Tanimoto said.

It was just one mile around the NAS complex, but Tanimoto soon discovered that it was a very long mile for her.

“I was huffing and puffing on a slight uphill grade and decided I was out of shape and this isn’t going to do,” she said.

What Tanimoto did following her lesson with Mr. Keliipio was to take a yard stick and measure the distance around her backyard to see how many laps she’d need to do to complete a mile.

“I used a yard stick from my clothesline pole and measured the boundaries and found that I needed to run 75 laps to make a mile,” Tanimoto said.  “The first few times I tried jogging it the back of my neck started to throb, but I kept it up and after resting at intervals my neck stopped throbbing.”

Tanimoto’s backyard mile was in 1968 and since that time, this now 78 year young woman, has made enormous strides in elevating her physical performance.

“I later learned about and went to Hoolulu track and did the half mile loop twice to make a mile,” she said.  “That was way better than doing 75 laps.”

Tanimoto moved her running laps to Hilo High track where she met and befriended some old timers like Benny Uyetake, Nelson Doi and Fumi and Kiyo Hamakawa.

This third generation Hilo girl grew up at Waiakea Mill Camp 1, behind the Hilo Shopping Center, where she would play baseball on the narrow plantation roads using rubber slippers as bases.

“I remember playing a variety of games such as hopscotch and okanapio which only our generation would know about as we used homemade equipment,” she said. “Every summer our parents would pack us six children in the old Ford and take us camping to Kawaihae at Spencer Park which is where my Dad taught me to swim.”

Tanimoto is a retired Licensed Practical Nurse and had spent 40 years working for the State, 25 years at Puumaile and Hilo Hospital and the other 15 years at the Hilo Counseling Center.

“While I was working at the Counseling Center Dr. Mike Compton was directing a fun run for the YWCA and it was a 10K (6.2 miles),” she said.  “At that time I had worked myself up to doing 5 miles on the track so I was apprehensive with signing up, but decided to enter anyway.”

Tanimoto had never entered a race prior to the YWCA 10K and to her surprise she not only finished, but came in first for her age division.

“I was so happy to be able to run 6 miles and that was the beginning of my racing career,” she said with a wide grin.

Since that time Tanimoto has been a regular at the 5K and 10K race distances and had even completed a few half marathons (13.1 miles).

In 1983 Tanimoto entered and completed her first full marathon (26.2 miles) and returned to Honolulu again in 1992 to complete her second marathon, this time running with her brother Don.

But running is not Tanimoto’s only method of fitness as this young minded person has continued her regular swimming while entering several Hapuna and Richardson Rough Water competitions.

“After retiring I joined some hospital retirees for swimming at Carlsmith Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 am,” she said.  “I started swimming with them regularly, three times per week in January 1995 and they were my inspiration for me to continue to come back, week after week.”

Tanimoto used to swim for an hour each time, but with age she has cut back to 30 minutes of lap swimming.

“Carlsmith is my favorite swimming spot in Hilo as the waters are clear and cool,” she said.  “There are turtles and many varieties of fish while the view of Mauna Kea is just gorgeous.”

This past January Tanimoto also added another fitness routine to her schedule as she joined Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko.

“We practice rigorously on Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm and on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 pm,” she said.  “Walking, swimming and taiko make me feel so alive.”

Tanimoto’s parents set a good example for her as they ate lots of fruits and vegetables which continue to be her steady diet.

“My Dad lived to be 85 and my mom, 94,” Tanimoto said.  “I can’t say at 78 that I’ll get to reach their age but I do eat a fairly healthy diet.”

Tanimoto will have a smoothie made from plain silk soy milk, plain nonfat yogurt, almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, blueberries, bananas and some greens for breakfast with a tuna or salmon sandwich on whole wheat for lunch.

“For dinner I’d have a big bowl of green salad with tofu,” she said.  “I like to waterless steam my veggies in my stainless steel pot.”

And why does Tanimoto maintain this healthy lifestyle filled with good food and moderate exercise.

“I chose this lifestyle because it keeps me moving and it makes me feel healthier,” she said.

A good part of Tanimoto’s success in health and fitness can be attributed to her happy, positive attitude.  When I met her for the first time I was impressed with her kind spirit and youthful vigor.

And someday should you happen to see a happy jogger running the coastline of Hilo Bay remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness, Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments