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

Staying Healthy and Fit helps in times of Adversity – Brain Tumor Removal

Big Dog 2 days after brain surgery

Overcoming Adversity

There is a French proverb that goes, “Good fortune and bad are equally necessary to man, to fit him to meet the contingencies of this life.”

I’ve been a health advocate and runner/walker for most of my life.  I have always believed in taking good care of my body to avoid problems associated with high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Until about two weeks ago I was logging 55 miles per week on the roads of East Hawaii doing my daily jogs coupled with long walks.

My wife, Randee, a physical education teacher at Keaau Middle School, is the perfect mate for me as she too also logs many miles at home on her treadmill.

I’ve been able to avoid the trapping of high fat foods and for the most part limited my sweet intake.

During a recent MRI visit, following the one year anniversary of my only episode of having seizures, it was discovered that I had a brain tumor.

Having an eternal caring and insistent wife, because I can be quite stubborn, I took the first available opening to go to Queens Hospital and have brain surgery to remove the growth.

Now here is the tie in to why it is important to stay healthy and fit:

What was to be a five hour surgery last only three and a half hours, record time they tell me for a man of 64.

What was to be five to seven days in the hospital ended up being just four days.

I was up and moving the day following surgery, taking baby steps at first around the hallways of the hospital.

The medical staff often remarked at how quickly I was recovering and the pain level was minimal and my attitude remained happy, cordial and at times even funny.

I credit all of these things to my overall health and fitness level that has served me well for many decades.

Exercise and diet are not the panacea for all that ails us, but both will contribute to a better attitude and a more resilient body.

Since being released from the hospital I am only walking about 30 miles per week as I need to take things slowly as there are still 14 staples on the right side of my head.

The brain seems to work fine as four days after surgery I voluntarily wrote a 1,000 word story on high school wrestling.   Of course, the Running with the Big Dog columns will continue as long as people out there are reading them and I do appreciate the community who takes the time to read over my stories.

The tumor was malignant and I am still waiting for the recommendations of a hematologist/oncologist.

Life is filled with adversity and challenges will crop up when we least expect, but our attitude, spiritual beliefs and a healthy body will stand up to those challenges.

I’ve already been blessed, escaping death twice in my life.  

When I was 9 years old I was fishing in a river bank with high walls when a flash flood roared through.  Fortunately my older brother was with me, grabbed me and threw me up the side of the bank, saving my life.

Another episode happened when I was 17 when the cargo plane that I was in lost both its engines during a lightning storm.  We were told to prepare for a crash landing as the plane nose dived, helplessly.   My prayers were answered just seconds before plunging to the surface as one of the engines sputtered back on.

Big Dog 10 days after surgery

Death is not something that we have control over and is a process of the life experience.

We can only do as much as we can to keep the quality of life at a maximum by controlling what we eat and making sure that we have an ample supply of exercise to keep it moving.

My wife had to endure the burden of my experience as it was difficult for her to see me is such disrepair.  I am blessed to have someone that loves me so much that she would hold my hand, every step of the way.

I was told at the hospital to find myself a friend, a rock, which I could lean on to relieve the stress that my wife was going through.  This was great advice!

That “rock” is former mayor Harry Kim, who I speak to in my most terrifying moments. 

Kim was another blessing as he went through a similar experience when his son Garrett was diagnosed with cancer.

I promised Harry that through this experience I would offer myself to be someone else’s ‘rock’ in their time of need.

If there is someone out there that feels alone, battling adversity, and needs someone just to talk with don’t hesitate to contact me.

You are not alone, there are many that are battling to fight this horrifying disease, called cancer.

Stay positive, enjoy each day, and if at all possible keep your body moving.   Movement will make you feel better which will then lead to a feeling of well being.   And above all, keep the faith.

Helen Keller said it best, “Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world.  So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.”

And someday should you happen to see a happy man with an incredible wife remember to smile, say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Running a Marathon in 50 states while battling Cancer – Don Wright

Don Wright

The Human Factor profiles survivors who have overcome the odds in confronting life’s obstacles.  People who have overcome injury, illness or other hardships in their lives.  People who have tapped into their inner strength and found resilience that they never realized they possessed.

The following are excerpts from the Human Factor which highlights Don Wright who developed a deep passion for running marathons, later in his life, before being diagnosed with cancer.  His goal is to run and finish 50 marathons in 50 states.

“I’ve made an appointment with an oncologist for you.” “These are words that no one wants to hear from their doctor, ever. It was multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer with a median survival of about five years after diagnosis,” Wright said.

“I had lost weight at Weight Watchers’, then started running, and had just run my first marathon. Myeloma attacks the bones, and a broken bone would stop my running, so I was determined to run the Boston Marathon before I lost the ability to do so. I qualified for Boston and then ran it, then a few more marathons here and there. I had no reasonable expectation of finishing all 50 states,” he said.

“That was eight years ago. I’m now 70 years old and since the diagnosis I have run 60 marathons in 41 different states, including the Seattle Marathon several Sunday’s ago. After some treatments that didn’t stop it, the cancer has been stable for three and a half years on a novel investigational drug called pomalidomide, just a pill that I take once a day. I’m a beneficiary of modern innovation and research” Wright said.

According to Don Wright, he has this incurable cancer, and his most pressing health problem is runners’ knee!

“My doctors are uniformly enthusiastic about the running as a way to strengthen my immune system and my bones, Wright said. “We’re not sure why it works, but keep doing what you’re doing.”

“We can’t know how long this treatment will continue to keep the cancer from growing, but for now, my family and I are relishing the extra time that I have been given, by traveling and doing these marathons together. They are a celebration of life!,” he said

“I stand at the starting line and get choked up, thinking of the people I know who haven’t survived myeloma, and how lucky I am to be alive and able to run a marathon. I can’t wait to start the race. Even on a cold, rainy day in Seattle, I enjoyed every moment. As I run, I sometimes imagine that I’m just floating along, drifting past the scenery. I feel wonderful, and we’re going for all 50 states,” Don Wright said.

Big Dog’s Hero of the month, Mr. Don Wright!

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Marathon Running | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment