It first began 2 years ago. I was walking in downtown Houston when my calves suddenly tightened up on me. I could barely walk. Instinctively, I knew to stop and rest; a minute later I resumed and my legs were much better.
That was the first time.
It got worse. As the months passed, I noticed the pain more often. A 5-minute walk would produce sore legs. Going up and down stairs would lockup my calves. The pain could be excruciating, but a short rest would make it go away. Until the next episode. I knew it should be checked out by a doctor, but I had no insurance and decided to just live with it. So I walked less; that was my treatment. I'm an alcoholic with alcoholic thinking.
Then, about a year ago, I saw a commercial (public service announcement) on TV which described my ailment perfectly. They called it Peripheral Artery Disease (click for more info). It was akin to artery blockage around the heart, except it affects the limbs instead. Not good. So, I decided it was finally time to get a health insurance policy. I did a lot of research and made that purchase. Then I went to visit a real doctor for a professional diagnosis. My suspicions were correct and I asked the doctor about treatment. She told me PAD was caused by smoking (I smoked 3 packs/day for the past 36 years). She said my ailment could be cured by stopping smoking and getting proper exercise. Failure to do so could have tragic consequences. I had no intention of stopping smoking. So I joined a gym and went a few times for some leg work on the eliptical (bicycle-type exercise) but did not take it seriously. My legs just got worse.
Fast forward to last October when I finally decided to stop smoking. yeaaaaa!!! Then I put on a quick 25 pounds. This was my motivation to get some exercise. I got a bicycle. I wrote to you guys about this, just a couple or three months ago. It didn't seem to help my legs, but I enjoyed riding. Then, finally, Hayden talked me into hiring a personal trainer and committing to regular workouts at the gym. This would enable me to lose the extra 2 inches I had put around my waist. I hate the extra weight and size as much as the leg problems.
So at the beginning of June (a month ago) I began working out with my new trainer. (I'll admit that he's certainly a pleasure to look at.) Each workout was proceeded by a warmup session which included time on the treadmill. At first, I could only go 5 or 6 minutes before my calves would lock up. I set a goal of adding 1 minute to each session. This seemed to be working and I could sense some tangible improvement. By the start of last week, I was up to 12 mintues. Not much to most of you, but huge to me. Then, on Wednesday, my goal was to make 13 minutes. But my legs felt just fine at 13 minutes and I stopped at 15 minutes so I could get on with my other exercise. Friday was the same; no pain in the legs. Yesterday, the same. I stopped at 20 mintues but could have gone on indefinitely.
I have a lower extremity stress test scheduled later in July as part of my physical exam that has not been completed. But as I sit here and type this, I am pretty damn sure that my artery disease in my legs is cured. Stop smoking. Get exercise. That's the medication.
Just another miracle in a continuing series.