Thursday, December 24

Urban Training

As you may imagine, Dr. Benza and I are extremely busy, and finding time to train is quickly surfacing as one of our more significant challenges. Integrating training into our everyday activities will hopefully give us the biggest bang for our buck. With offices on the 16th floor of Allegheny General Hospital, one way to maximize our time is quite simply...take the stairs.

(that is, except when i am in heels and a suit)

Please support me, Dr. Benza, and Dr. Frantz in this effort to increase awareness and raise money for PHA.

Monday, December 21

Devils Tower

This summer my daughter Christina and I climbed Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming (the first National Monument, made famous in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). It was a wonderful Father-Daughter experience as she made the transition from high school to college. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills is a classic climbing handbook with a title that captures so much the feeling of freedom that comes from being on vertical rock or a mountain path. My expression of sheer joy is all about that. Why climb? Purity of effort, simplicity of purpose, freedom from distraction, and what the great Charles Houston so aptly named the "Brotherhood of the Rope". The bond between climbers can be a wonderful thing. On Kilimanjaro, Jessica, Ray and I will share a common purpose and help each other along the way, just as the members of PHA help each other in their ongoing quest to live with and ultimately conquer pulmonary arterial hypertension. Support the PHA Brotherhood!

These Boots are Made for Walking

People have been asking me, "How are you training?"

Of course, cardiovascular training is imperative. But my theory finds roots from a trek years ago in the grand canyon. At that time, I was in impeccable cardiovascular shape. My fellow hiker was just that... a hiker. As we ascended the bone-jarring switchbacks, she needed frequent breaks to catch her breath, and I felt like I was doing great.... until the next day. Every joint in my body hurt, and I discovered muscles that I only learned about in anatomy class. My friend... she felt great. I learned then that my cardiovascular advantage proved little to prepare me for a strenuous hike. If you are going to swim, you should train by swimming. If you are going to hike up a mountain, you better get hiking...

Pittsburgh has the unique profile of steep urban hills requiring steps for commuters, lending a great training ground outside of the gym. This pic was taken while appreciating the view of the 'Burgh during step training.

Hiking at Kent Falls, CT...

Thursday, December 17

You gotta move it move it move it...

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I ran four days in a row, fueled by that irresistible pumpkin pie. And then winter set in with characteristic fury here in Minnesnowta. A foot of snow and gale force winds created drifts 6 feet high. So cross country skiing took the place of running, and tonite it was off to the gym for some weight training and quad burning on a bike. In just 2 months we will start wending our way up Kilimanjaro, every step bringing to mind our patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Won't you consider a year end tax deductible contribution to help find the path to a cure? Quiet contemplation leads to wise decisions.


Monday, November 30

A new team member

Hey! I just joined the team!

I'm a physician assistant and have specialized in PH for 10 years in Pittsburgh. This climb is a new world for me. The most adventuresome thing I've done is hike the Grand Canyon (2-day hike) about 8 years ago. I'm looking forward to this as I begin my training and researching of gear (will actually get my boots this weekend!). The coolest part of this is becoming intimately acquainted with the shortness of breath my patients experience... and raising money for PHA in the interim!

~ Jessica Lazar

Tuesday, November 24

Perhaps you think I must be some uberathlete who can waltz up mountains like a cakewalk.
Not exactly. When I was young(er) I was a gymnast, and did quite a bit of rock climbing and some mountaineering, including multiple ascents of Devil's Tower and reached the top of Mount Rainier in high school (14, 410 feet).

When I was in college I developed an inflammatory arthritis (psoriatic arthritis; yes, young people do develop arthritis as many of you know from personal experience). This put the kabosh on highly pounding activities for a number of years since inflammation in psoriatic arthritis is pretty use-dependent. I turned to swimming from running to stay in shape (swimming is great exercise and very joint friendly; if you have joint issues and haven't tried swimming, give it a go)! Subsequently my trusty rheumatologist, whose goal is to keep me able to do as many of the active things I like to do as possible, recommended a tumor necrosis factor alpha blocker. I have had my ups and downs with that, but when things are going well, I can once again push myself pretty hard without disastrous joint flares. Better living through chemistry! Living with a chronic disease isn't always easy, but with good medical care, keeping a positive attitude, and controlling the things that are within my control, I have once again been able to do a lot of things I had pretty much accepted as forever in my past.

All of this I mention just to let you know that I too have my own limitations and obstacles, and know a bit what it is like to wonder how one's health is going to behave. Kilimanjaro is going to be a serious workout for my body, but 80% of climbing a mountain is attitude and perseverance.
Three months to go; I am looking forward every day!

Sunday, November 15

Why climb Kilimanjaro for PHA?

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a curable disease. No, we don't have the cure yet, but to me it is something I am quite hopeful will happen within my career, which has about 15 years to go. We just have to push hard enough, be dedicated enough, climb over every obstacle, and keep pushing just when we feel like sitting down. Kind of like climbing a mountain. And kind of like living with PAH. Our climb of Kilimanjaro honors all those who courageously live with PAH every day, those who courageously have died with PAH, the caregivers who are there every step of the way, the caregivers left behind when a loved one with PAH reaches the end of their struggle.

Every time I see a patient newly diagnosed with PAH, I wonder "Is this a patient who will live to see their PAH be curable?" "How can I help to make that happen?" Climbing Kilimanjaro is all about that. Today I ran 4 miles up and down hills in 44 minutes in the cool air of a Minnesota November, bringing my total for the month to about 20 miles thus far. Kilimanjaro is 19,334 feet (5893 metres) high, with a trek totalling over 40 miles. I plan to be ready.

Come along on our journey. Our goal is to raise $100,000 for PHA, promoting disease awareness and supporting new research to help find the cure. If 10,000 people give $10 each, we will achieve that goal. Only about half of people who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro reach the very top. We intend to make it; your support will energize our every step. Together we will follow the path to a cure!