Patti Greer (from Gurnee) stumbled on LRC’s Facebook page two years ago. She was pleased to find a club that encouraged everyone to run regardless of ability or goals, pace or distance. Along the trails and roads we run, Patti discovered a wealth of new friendships. She volunteered at several events, including Run of the Dead, cheering for people doing something she loves and witnessing them fall in love with ultra running. She took pride in LRC’s support for one another and its community. Little did she know that she would someday be a recipient of our support.
Patti was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes the loss of voluntary muscle control and is ultimately fatal – there is no cure.
Until her diagnosis, Patti was living a very active life in her 40s: She took Shotokan Karate lessons to understand and help direct Jackson with his karate (she ranked more than halfway to black belt), was a Boy Scout leader and loved camping, continued to ice skate with all her spins and axels, took ballet and performed for a local dance theatre… All things she didn’t have the opportunity to do while growing up in a household with 10 children.
Running was Patti’s drug. It was something she could do with both her boys: her son Matthew prefers shorter distances, like the Gurnee Days’ 2-miler, and Jackson frequently accompanied mom on LRC runs. One of Patti’s favorite routes is our Touch the Lake run – a 14-mile round trip run from Libertyville to Lake Bluff beach and back. Her first attempt on August 22, 2015 was thwarted by a fall she assumed was just due to her being clumsy. That fall, however, bookmarks this new chapter of her life.
After taking some time off to heal, she joined us 6 months later to complete that run to the lake. Her speed wasn’t there but she finished. A few weeks later Jackson joined her for 13 miles during our 2016 Paczki Day run. Shortly after, she began having foot and hip pain on the right side that progressed to limping.
Through the summer of 2016, Patti’s equilibrium began to fail and she had to think about coordinating her right leg to run, then walk. A chiropractor urged her to get a MRI and EMG. A series of therapist and doctor visits led her to a neurologist that concluded she was experiencing symptoms of ALS. A second opinion confirmed she was in its early stages.
On October 20th, 2016, Patti began using a cane and in November, traded the cane for a wheeled walker. Routines she once took for granted had become difficult. She was falling down often. Fatigue set in quickly. In an effort to help her expend less muscle energy, adjustments are being made to her home. The seemingly quick progression of these limitations leave her and her husband, Steve, breathless at how fast this disease can strip someone of their body.
Patti is seeing a therapist 2 days a week and taking a supplement, not currently covered by insurance, that has shown signs of slowing the disease for 70% of its users, and she is hoping to qualify for a new clinical trial. She and Steve are planning for her inevitable future needs, which include a powered wheelchair, transport, and various other home modifications.
Patti continues to work as a nurse practitioner at the Navy base. They have been wonderful in accommodating her. Her family is struggling to figure out what the future holds. Steve desperately searches for a cure. It kills him to see Patti struggle to do the things she once did effortlessly. Jackson prays for his mom to get better, while Matthew is a bit young to understand the gravity of the situation. Everyone is hopeful for a new medication or therapy that will slow or cure this disease.
She’s gracious for all the amazing people helping her and her family adjust. However, these changes are not easy for Patti; ALS is slowly stripping her of her independence, her wifehood, and her ability to be a great mom. Her new “normal” is always changing, but her outlook and optimism are not. Patti knows there is a new medication or therapy around the corner that will slow or even stop ALS, and she can’t wait for it!
She misses running desperately, from the breeze on her face to the endorphins after finishing a run, to setting and surpassing new goals. She misses running with Jackson. Luckily, although she isn’t able to run with the LRC Crue, we can still bring the Crue to her in the following ways:
- We are dedicating our annual Charity Poker Run 10K to Patti this coming April 15th. Details and registration link HERE.
- We organized a relay team to push Patti for her first marathon in Kenosha on May 6th. A Facebook event page with more details will be posted soon.
Mark your calendars to come out, show Patti your love and support, and contribute to helping stop this disease from taking more of her life.