What makes this accomplishment even more amazing and inspirational is the fact that Sherry came to me several years ago and shared that she was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. At that point she was just looking to stay as active as possible and have the best quality of life she could maintain as her doctor didn't have much hope for her staying active.
Since that time, I worked with Sherry to change her lifestyle and nutritional habits. We shifted her to the Paleo, or Primal way of eating, which means no grains or dairy. Eating only fruits, vegetables, protein, and fat, those foods which would have likely been eaten by our ancient ancestors and the way we were designed to eat. The Paleo approach is not only a more healthful approach to eating, it is also non-inflammatory, meaning, unlike diets high in grains and dairy, it does not trigger inflammation in the body. She also began to workout more frequently in my classes at Delta Faucet and followed the workouts posted on the PR Fitness website.
As Sherry's "symptoms" improved, she began to be more active and take on bigger physical challenges such as sprint triathlons and 5K road races. She also joined us for trail runs at Eagle Creek and quickly became hooked.
Over the past two years, Sherry has gone on to run road 1/2 marathons, the DINO trail race series, the Tecumseh Trail Marathon (a tough trail marathon held in December in Brown County, IN), and last weekend completed her first trail ultramarathon - Dances with Dirt, Gnaw Bone, IN. DWD is one of the toughest 50K races around with steep ascents and descents, multiple creek crossings, miles of shoe sucking mud, loads of bushwhacking, and several "stupid spots". Oh, and did I mention she has taken "minimalist footwear" to a whole other level? She completed these events in her trusty aqua socks! Here is what Sherry posted on her Facebook page last Sunday:
"I'm recovering from 31 miles of (mostly) trail running at DWD in Brown county yesterday. The legs are tired!! I'm losing a toe nail from the worst I've ever stumped a toe (I'll leave out the icky, oozing details). Was on the way to finishing in 8 hours until I twisted a knee on a downhill run that felt more like a jump off a cliff with only 8 miles to go. The were 3 climbs that were more like rock climbing than trail running. My biceps are tight from the pulling up. Finished 3rd in my age group. Only 4 of 11 in my age group finished. It was absolutely grueling but at the same time the most 'fun' I've had on the trails to date. An old pro that's been running DWD trails for years said it was by far the hardest he's done to date. He finished over an hour later than he expected. The best part of the whole race---seeing Gordon, Greg, Noland, and Eve in the woods ahead of me at the mile 21 aide station! It was a wonderful pick me up after the hardest 5k I've ever 'ran'--it took well over 1 hr 15 minutes. Nothing but steep up hills, bushwhacking, and MUD! And it was all done in my wonderful Beach Basics Aqua Socks."
Here is what Sherry emailed to me a couple of months ago after a checkup with her doctor:
"Just wanted to let you know I had my 4-6 month appointment with the Rheumatologist this afternoon. I was afraid he wouldn’t be hip on not taking the meds for the last 5 months.
He was very happy that I had gone without the meds for this long with no pain or other ill effects although his medical training says it’s not possible. He did his usual mobility and swelling checks and found “NOT ONE SINGLE SIGN OF ANY PAST PROBLEMS.” He took detailed notes on my exercise activities and diet changes. He asked his PA to pull medical literature on the Paleo diet and shoeless running to study later. He was dumbfounded that I could run for more than 7 hours through the woods in the snow with no ill effects (Tecumseh Train Marathon in December 2010).
He said I could have blood test done to check the RA factor to determine if there truly is a reversing of the antibodies that bring on the RA symptoms but regardless of the results he can’t guarantee the RA won’t return. There are no long-term studies on the effects of diet along with regular exercise in those previously diagnosed with RA. I said no thank you. If the RA factor didn’t go down, way down, I would have a feeling of impending doom weighing on me. I’ll continue to do what I’m doing, enjoy each day as it comes, and thank God each day that I had one more pain free day. If the RA returns, I’ll deal with it then.
As long as I agreed to lose 25 pounds during the next few months (doctors always have to bring that up!), I don’t have to go back for a year or have the monthly liver function blood tests!
If just one person, or their family, can find a little bit of hope from my story then I’ll feel blessed. When I was diagnosed I felt like there was no hope for ever feeling good again. I wish I could’ve found just one little piece of positive information. There’s nothing out there about recovering from inflammatory diseases other than the general statement 'eat healthy and exercise moderately 2-3 times a week when you are able.' Gordon (Sherry's husband) would get so depressed even thinking about it that he could barely function for days. Even now he won’t discuss it with family if they ask how I’m REALLY doing---and they never ask me directly."
I'm extremely proud of Sherry, her dedication and hard work. Her story is proof that, often, medication isn't the only answer to our medical problems. Lifestyle, diet, and hard work can assist or even surpass what science and pharmaceuticals can do for us. Keep up the good work, Sherry, and thanks for the inspiration!