Runner with Parkinson’s races for a cure

first_imgGREAT CRANBERRY ISLAND — A few years ago, Michael Westphal fielded an unexpected question while grocery shopping.“Why are you dancing?” asked a 4-year-old girl in the Hannaford aisle. She was referring to Westphal’s excessive movement, or dyskinesia — a side effect of the medication he takes for his Parkinson’s disease.“Oh,” Westphal began, “I just like to dance.”The girl smiled before her mother summoned her away.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder text“Little kids are like mirrors,” Westphal says. “You can really see yourself in their faces because they don’t think twice about staring.”Westphal, a 58-year-old carpenter who lives on Great Cranberry Island, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about nine years ago at the age of 49. The progressive central nervous system disorder can make even the simplest aspects of life, such as blending into a public setting, increasingly difficult. But Westphal has found a reprieve from this kind of attention through one unexpected activity: running.While some Parkinson’s patients lose their ability to walk, Westphal — one of Maine’s elite runners in the 1970s and ’80s – seems to shed his symptoms between the starting and finish lines of road races. On June 20, Westphal plans to run his first marathon in 22 years — Great Cranberry Island’s annual Great Run marathon — to raise awareness for Parkinson’s as well as money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.“Mike is literally in the race of his life,” says Great Run organizer and fellow Great Cranberry Island resident Gary Allen. “He’s raising money to hopefully help find a cure.”Westphal began fundraising with a $4,000 goal leading up to the marathon. As of today, he has raised almost $28,000 for the foundation’s research programs, putting him among the top 10 of more than a thousand 2015 fundraisers.“I feel kind of embarrassed about the publicity,” Westphal says, smiling. “But I’m going to keep doing it, as long as it’s raising money to find a cure or relief for some people.”Allen, also an avid runner who has known Westphal since they were children, isn’t surprised by his friend’s modesty.“That’s Mike — he’s a quiet person who doesn’t want to make a fuss,” Allen says. “But as a competitor, good luck staying with him. He lets his feet do the talking.”Decades before Westphal’s diagnosis, he was one of the top runners in the state. The University of Maine track star could run a mile in four minutes and 19 seconds. In 1979, Westphal paced the first female Olympic marathon gold medalist in the Boston Marathon before passing Maine’s Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the women’s division for the first time that year.Westphal has finished 12 marathons, with a personal best time of 2 hours, 29 minutes and 32 seconds.“Mike was that rare combination of people who works hard and has natural ability,” Allen says. “There was a period in eastern Maine where, if you wanted to win any race, you had to go through him.”Westphal faded from the competitive running scene in the 1990s as he grew more involved with his family and operating his carpentry business on the island. But running always remained part of his life, that is, until 2006 when he began feeling soreness in his left shoulder.“I just thought it was a pulled muscle,” Westphal says. “But it wouldn’t go away.”The pain gradually worked its way down his arm, prompting Westphal to visit an orthopedist. The doctor prescribed him a neck brace and assigned him exercises to reduce the stiffness, but the discomfort persisted.Next, Westphal sought relief through physical therapy. When the therapist asked Westphal to tap his feet on the ground, she noticed some hesitation in his left foot — a red flag for movement disorders. Without sharing her suspicions with Westphal, she referred him to a neurologist.There is no simple diagnostic test for Parkinson’s, and its symptoms are unique to each individual. The disease results from the dying off of dopamine-producing cells responsible for coordination and movement.The neurologist prescribed Westphal with Carbidopa-Levodopa  — a dopamine replacement drug — which immediately alleviated his symptoms, verifying their cause.“I just didn’t believe it was Parkinson’s at first,” Westphal says. “Even when she told me, I didn’t quite believe it.”With the help of this medication, Westphal’s symptoms ranged from mild to nonexistent for the next few years — a time during which he remained unconvinced he had Parkinson’s. But slowly, Westphal began losing coordination, and the stiffness once isolated to just one arm began to seize his whole body.“I think he started to sort of withdraw,” Allen says. “He stopped running and doing the things he loved. And when you’re a runner, running is part of you. You don’t feel whole without it.”Westphal says the worst part of Parkinson’s is what he calls the “slow periods,” which occur when his medication begins to wear off. Before his next dose can kick in, Westphal says he often feels like a “zombie,” shuffling around while hunched over, with his facial expressions flat and his arms unmoving by his side.“You’re just uncomfortable in your own body,” Westphal says. “At times, it’s torture. You just don’t feel like doing anything.”For years, that’s exactly what Westphal would do during these periods: nothing. He would suffer through the hour or two until it passed.Until one day last summer, Westphal didn’t wait; he ran.“At first, my knees will lock together, and I’ll be clomping along,” Westphal says. “But after about a quarter-mile, it goes away.”The only hint of Westphal’s Parkinson’s while he’s running is a slight head bob.“I’m used to seeing him struggle — his movements are so affected by his disease,” Allen says. “Then, to see him out running again… It was like, ‘Holy crap, look at him go!’“Gradually, you could see that spark come back and that fire return in his eyes.”Westphal began entering road races again this spring, and he has been competing almost every weekend. Though Westphal says the running community has been very supportive, he occasionally notices the looks his uncontrolled movement attracts before and after races. Westphal describes his dyskinesia — a result of an excess of artificial dopamine — as “annoying, but tolerable.”“With Parkinson’s, the first thing you’ve got to lose is your vanity,” Westphal says, paraphrasing a quote by his inspiration who’s also battling Parkinson’s, Michael J. Fox.“I used to kind of hide when it came to public events because I was embarrassed,” Westphal continues. “People would look at me and not know what was wrong with me. I figured this year, it was time to get out and show people what Parkinson’s is all about.”Westphal is now running 50 miles a week in preparation for the 26.2-mile Great Run. On Memorial Day, he and Allen totaled 20 miles together, with Westphal also running Ellsworth’s annual Memorial Mile race that morning in five minutes and 32 seconds.“I thought it was completely abstract that Mike would ever run another marathon,” Allen says. “He’s climbing back up that mountain, which I think he felt like he’d been knocked off permanently.“I don’t throw the word ‘miracle’ around often, but what Mike is doing is on the verge of being a miracle.”Westphal says he doesn’t really understand the big deal.“I’m just doing what I like to do,” he says. “I think everyone ought to do what they can to enjoy what their passion is. Mine is running.“Just don’t give up.”According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s website, 89 cents of every dollar donated goes to supporting its research programs to help speed a cure for Parkinson’s. Donate by visiting Westphal’s fundraising page.Find more information at or by emailing Westphal at Part 2: When the injury is inside your head, some “don’t get it” – July 26, 2016 Taylor VorthermsSports Editor at The Ellsworth AmericanTaylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013. Part 1: Invisible, incapacitating concussions are sidelining high school athletes – July 19, 2016 Latest posts by Taylor Vortherms (see all)center_img Bio Latest Posts EHS names new boys’ soccer coach – July 13, 2016last_img read more

Women of Troy face tough road challenge in Stanford

first_imgFollow Kurt on Twitter @legen_daryKurt After its four-set defeat at the hands of Washington this past Sunday, the USC women’s volleyball team will have to regroup quickly as it heads to Palo Alto, Calif. to take on Stanford.Fab frosh · Freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu has performed superbly this season, posting 210 kills, good for second-most on the team. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanWednesday’s match against the No. 5 Cardinal (15-4, 8-2 Pac-12) marks a turning point in the season for the No. 8 Women of Troy (18-3, 8-2). The conference schedule is now halfway finished, and although USC has put itself in a great position to become conference champions, it is clear that the team will not be able to cruise to the championship easily.After winning its first seven conference matches, the squad dropped three straight sets against Arizona on Oct. 20 and lost for the first time this season at home against the No. 3 Huskies on Sunday.Today’s showdown is also the first midweek match in over a month for the Women of Troy, as the team will now have to play on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the most of the remainder of the regular season. Though the one-day gap between games is nothing new for the team, games in the middle of the week are sure to put extra stress on a squad that has to worry about classes as well as winning volleyball matches. USC head coach Mick Haley saw the effects of this stress firsthand in the match against Washington.“Our net defense was sloppy,” Haley said. “That’s the hardest of the skills, but it might be due to mental fatigue. We’re right in the middle of midterms, and I think it might be carrying over to the court.”Stanford — a team ostensibly going through its own share of academic responsibilities — will be a tough task for USC, especially in the middle of the week on the road. The Cardinal, like the Women of Troy, have lost only two matches in Pac-12 play, but have yet to lose at home.In their previous match against the Cardinal, the Women of Troy prided themselves on efficiently hitting and blocking Stanford’s hit attempts. They outhit Stanford by a wide margin of .358 to .245 on their way to a sweep at the Galen Center. USC senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard, who was largely held in check in the Washington match, posted a monster line in the Oct. 4 tilt against Stanford with nine kills and a .643 hitting percentage. The setters will have to look to set her up at the net to exploit the weaknesses in Stanford’s defense.Along with Olgard, USC will have plenty of other options with the ball. One of the strengths of USC’s team this season has been its ability to spread the ball around to multiple attackers over the course of the match. In the first match against Stanford, three outside hitters — sophomore Samantha Bricio, freshman Ebony Nwanebu and senior Sara Shaw — each had 10 kills or more. Middle blockers Olgard and junior Hannah Schraer weren’t too far behind with nine and eight kills, respectively.With a deep bench, there is potential for an even larger distribution of scoring. Haley has even hinted at the idea of bringing new players off the bench to try to get the offense rolling when things come to a halt on the court.“I hope it brings spark to our team and gets our energy going,” Haley said of playing more of his bench in the upcoming game. “We’re really just looking for more scoring. We want more points and more production.”Perhaps most important to tonight’s match, however, is not statistics or individual performances, but team effort when adversity hits. Even in the sweep against the Cardinal, the sets were not always easy wins for the Women of Troy. Tonight’s match should be no different.“We’ve been pushing ourselves too hard,” Haley said of his players’ reactions to their recent slump. “We can’t panic when we don’t play like we want to.”With Stanford’s recent success, especially at home, USC cannot expect to coast to a win in tonight’s match. Though the benchmark of a team’s success is its performance at the end of the season and not in the middle, a lot is riding on this match as well as the next few to follow.“The next three weeks will define us,” Haley said. “We lost at Arizona, we lost at home. Now we have to correct, make changes and show we’re getting better.”The match will begin tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.last_img read more

Gallery: Syracuse drops match, 3-0, to Pittsburgh

first_imgSyracuse (14-7, 6-2 Atlantic Coast) struggled to put away sets in which it led late, and that ultimately doomed SU in its straight-sets loss to Pittsburgh (14-4, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) on Friday night in the Women’s Building. Syracuse registered six total blocks and 31 digs, their second- and third-lowest totals of the season, respectively. Below, see our best shots from the game. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on October 13, 2017 at 6:02 pm Contact Max: mefreund@syr.edulast_img

Dodgers’ Russell Martin goes to injured list with flareup of lower back issue

first_img How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Martin is on anti-inflammatory medication and Roberts said the team will be better to assess how much time he will miss after a few days’ rest.“Hopefully in the next coming days, it will dissipate,” Roberts said.To replace Martin on the active roster, the Dodgers promoted Rocky Gale from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Gale was 2 for 6 in three games with OKC to start the season. He was the choice over top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith because of the limited playing time available. Austin Barnes started eight of the first 13 games and will assume even more of the workload with Martin sidelined.“(Gale) is a great receiver and can execute a gameplan,” Roberts said. “I see him (Barnes) taking down the night games and Rocky with the day games. But we can change.“We’re going to lean on Austin but obviously still need to be mindful because we still have a long way to go.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “I think we know the type of player he is,” Roberts said. “Obviously to go out there and do it is a different thing. But our intent all along … you have him up here as a young player to get at-bats, to get starts.”Before the four-game series in St. Louis, Roberts said he planned to give off days to Justin Turner, Corey Seager, A.J. Pollock and Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is the only one left and will likely not be in the starting lineup for the day game Thursday – meaning another start for Verdugo.“We’ve had a lot of conversations about giving himself the best chance to have success as a young player in the major leagues, a bench player and that’s to prepare and have a routine every day, to be ready for whatever is asked of him,” Roberts said. “So when things of – he should be starting more and this and that – gets cloudy in someone’s head, it gets foggy and that’s where it starts to go down. So for a young player to have clarity to go along with his enthusiasm, that leads to success.”UP NEXTDodgers (RHP Walker Buehler, 1-0, 6.75 ERA) at Cardinals (RHP Michael Wacha, 0-0, 1.54 ERA), Thursday, 10:15 a.m., SportsNet LA (where available), 570 AMcenter_img ST. LOUIS — A lower back problem that has bothered him at times flared up again and landed Russell Martin on the injured list Wednesday.The 36-year-old Martin was sidelined briefly during spring training with the same issue and blamed it on overdoing a hitting drill. This time, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said it flared up while Martin was taking ground balls during the team’s pre-game workout.“Talking to Russ, he’s had it happen before, most recently in spring training,” Roberts said. “It’s something where there wasn’t one specific incident. He was taking ground balls like he does all the time. Ball right at him, just bent over and it just sort of spasmed on him.“From what he says, it typically takes him a week to get back. So for us, it was a no-brainer with the IL.” Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Gale has played in 17 big-league games with the San Diego Padres (2015 and 2017) and Dodgers last year (three games).INJURED LEFTIESClayton Kershaw was scheduled to travel back to St. Louis on Wednesday and rejoin the Dodgers after pitching six innings for Double-A Tulsa on Tuesday. Roberts said the Dodgers have not decided yet whether Kershaw will start for them Sunday or Monday.“We’ll see which day makes the most sense,” Roberts said. “But the next step is to pitch for us.”Rich Hill is scheduled to throw a three- or four-inning sim game when the team returns to Los Angeles on Friday. The next step will likely be a rehab start in the minors next week and possibly activation from the injured list after that.“That’s what I expect to happen,” Roberts said. “Because his arm strength is good. I saw his bullpen yesterday, he’s throwing the heck out of it. To have one sim game, up and down a few times, see how he responds – I don’t see why he wouldn’t be ready to go out on a rehab and come back to us.”Hyun-Jin Ryu threw on flat ground Wednesday, testing his injured groin muscle. He will do the same on Friday in Los Angeles, likely with more intensity simulating his delivery.“He said he feels good,” Roberts said. “Hopefully he continues to improve and we’ll put him in a bullpen to get down the slope. Then hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”DOOGIE DAYSAlex Verdugo made his fourth start in six games Wednesday. The rookie outfielder started the season with seven hits in his first 16 at-bats, five for extra bases. But Roberts said that didn’t necessarily earn him more playing time.Related Articles Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies last_img read more