He’s a friend, colleague, mentor … and one heck of an inspiration.
Gary Poignant, veteran news editor at the Edmonton Sun, ran his 24th marathon earlier this month in Chicago.
Gary, alluding to the above photo, said he was “in desperate need of a couple of toothpicks to keep my eyes open after the marathon.”
He was sporting pink shoe laces to highlight the fact that he was raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“I deliberately behaved like a jogging tourist in a sea of 40,000 other runners,” Gary told me, “finishing with a smile on my face in a personal worst time of 4 hours and 18 minutes. Truly a magical morning.”
Now for the back story, which is the truly inspiring part.
Here’s a column that Gary wrote 15 years ago about his painful struggle with arthritis (which is now in remission) …
Thursday, October 1, 1998
OVERPOWERED BY PAIN
NATUROPATH GIVES RELIEF TO SUN STAFFER WHO WAS BEDRIDDEN WITH ARTHRITIS
BY GARY POIGNANT, EDMONTON SUN
This is the story of my great escape from the jaws of excruciating pain. Namely — arthritis. Joint pain so severe that one day last April I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t get dressed. And, obviously, I couldn’t go to work.
My knees were the worst. My feet simply throbbed. My right hand, right elbow and right shoulder also ached.
This form of arthritis — diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis when it first hit me five years ago — was back and it was all-consuming.
Some days were better than others. But most days were simply brutal.
Attempting to manoeuvre down a flight of stairs had become a ridiculously difficult chore.
For a 41-year-old guy who had always been very active, this was tearing me apart emotionally.
All I could do for exercise was limp to the pool and perform a very slow breaststroke.
What was especially maddening was that the prescription medication that was supposed to make me feel better appeared to be making things worse.
I was receiving a weekly injection of methotrexate, a couple of anti-inflammatories a day along with several Tylenol 3 daily to ease the pain.
And despite assurances from rheumatologists for more than six months that these drugs would eventually start to ease the pain, I was feeling worse.
Time for a change, I thought.
I threw caution to the wind, found a naturopath in the Yellow Pages and booked an appointment.
I initially told Dr. Wayne Steinke I wanted immediate relief and would simply pay for a couple of acupuncture sessions.
He took one look at me, heard the standard life history and said, “You don’t need acupuncture. You need to change your diet.”
Steinke explained my body and joints were full of toxins and to get rid of them I needed to eliminate certain things from my diet.
As it turned out — it included nearly everything. No red meat. No sugar.
No alcohol. No coffee. No tomatoes. No dairy products. No wheat.
When trying to walk makes you cringe, you’re willing to try anything.
Steinke added several supplements to the mix — including flaxseed oil and an assortment of vitamins. I had already been taking vitamin C, garlic pills and fish oil pills.
He told me to stick with the diet, eat only the foods allowed — which included fish, chicken, rice and fresh fruit — and give it a month.
Sounded fine. Besides, I was too uncomfortable to be skeptical.
Within three weeks the pain began to ease.
I had stopped taking the methotrexate, had cut out the Tylenol and was down to just one anti-inflammatory a day.
The prescription drugs — which can harm the liver and kidneys with long-term use — had been making me feel sluggish.
By June I was able to ride a bicycle and was taking an anti-inflammatory every couple of days.
By late July, I was able to comfortably walk nine holes of golf and I was taking an anti-inflammatory every week or so.
I haven’t had an anti-inflammatory since early August and I have complete use of my joints again.
I can now walk up and down stairs without trouble. I can cycle 30 km and feel refreshed afterwards.
So what is going on with my body?
Why am I feeling so much better?
The rheumatologist I had been seeing simply says the arthritis is in remission.
“Keep your fingers crossed, it could come back at any time,” he says.
He could be right, because in 1993 when I was first diagnosed the arthritic symptoms left completely after eight months — but only after a change in diet and an assortment of natural remedies from a different naturopath.
Steinke has a different view, thankfully.
He says what I’ve managed to do over the past several months is reduce the toxicity in my body through a combination of improved diet, vitamin supplements and exercise.
“What you’ve done is improve the overall terrain and environment in your body,” he said, explaining people who suffer from arthritis have difficulty metabolizing food.
“It all comes down to what you do and don’t put in your body.
“This has allowed the cells in your body to work the way they should.
“This in turn improves your autoimmune system.”
Steinke says what has happened is my body has been allowed to fix itself over the past several months.
His theory certainly seems to hold true whenever I try to add certain foods to the mix.
The day after eating either tomatoes, bread or sugar, I feel pain in my joints. Thankfully, it’s not that severe and it’s usually gone within 24 hours.
Oddly, I can safely have the occasional beer or coffee without any noticeable problems.
There is still some mild tenderness in my knees, but the pain is virtually gone. I’m working at building the strength back up in my joints and enjoying my new-found freedom.
So am I out of the woods? Will the arthritis strike again?
The rheumatologist, of course, says it’s simply a matter of time before it returns.
Steinke, however, says if I stick closely to the diet, I’m destined to keep those pains away indefinitely. That’s a recipe I can live with.
* * *
Like I said, Gary’s one heck of an inspiration. Run Gary, run!