My firm is sponsoring a team to participate in the Lawyers Have Heart 5k on June 25, and I've decided to channel my inner Forrest Gump and lace up the long-ignored running shoes and try to finish the course before sundown. I've run this race before (much faster than I expect to do this time around), and while it's a great cause, I have some extra motivation in 2019 that I wanted to share.
Why I'm Running
In February 2014 I was diagnosed with acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. The immediate cause was owing to a large benign tumor in the brain that was directly interfering with the pituitary gland. When this happens during childhood, it's easy enough to dismiss the condition due to puberty, but it can cause gigantism - think of Andre the Giant, Richard Kiel (the actor who played Jaws in the James Bond franchise), and Tony Robbins - which can result in exaggerated bone growth and an abnormal increase in height (I guess being 6'7" had to come from somewhere). When it happens in adults though and the vertical growing has stopped, the bones and muscles only have one way to grow - out. It can result in increased bone growth in the hands, fingers, feet, and face. Other changes such as an enlarged nose and tongue, thickened lips, wider spacing in the teeth, fatigue, headaches, and impaired vision (among other things) are common. They all happened to me.
Thankfully there was a fix - I started an intense (and wildly expensive - so grateful for awesome insurance!) pharmacological regimen to inhibit production of the growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in March 2014 under the care of one of the top endocrinologists at Boston Medical Center and had the tumor surgically removed in October 2015 at Massachusetts General Hospital by a world-renowned expert. I also spent a lot of time and money fixing the problems caused in my face; I wore Invisalign and braces for 3 years (second time around - much easier than middle school!) and underwent a bimaxillary osteotomy (double jaw surgery) in August 2018 by another world-class surgeon at MGH to correct the damage done to my teeth and jaws.
What's that got to do with the heart?
Well...chronic excess of growth hormone and IGF-1 can lead to the development of acromegalic cardiomyopathy. From reading long-winded (a tax attorney finally gets to call something else long-winded!), dense medical articles and journals, "its main features are biventricular hypertrophy, diastolic dysfunction, and in later stages, systolic dysfunction and congestive heart failure." Ouch. Thankfully the surgical intervention and the pharmacological treatment can help to reverse some of these changes and decrease the high risk of cardiovascular complications, but some irreversible damage has already been done.
THE GOOD NEWS: Since acromegaly is a slow-growth, insidious disease and the tumor itself developed spontaneously and was not genetically inherited, my diagnosis was a real stroke of good fortune, luck, and divine intervention. I was diagnosed early. I mean, really early, in terms of acromegaly - most folks are diagnosed in their mid to late forties when the disease has had 20+ years to develop and the side effects have become more pronounced and permanent. I'm lucky. I'm a walking miracle of science and research. I'm grateful to the medical and research professionals who dedicated time, energy, and resources on my behalf - directly and indirectly. I know those things cost money. Tons of money. This is why I'm participating in the Lawyers Have Heart 5k. Sure, it will help get me out of the office chair and into a pair of Asics to train, but it will hopefully raise a little cash that can go towards life saving research and treatment.
I know everyone asks for money and donations...and I'm no different. I'm hoping to raise $1,000 ahead of this race, and I'd be grateful if you would consider donating to my campaign.