McLEAN, VA, OCT. 22, 2013 – Five years ago, Tony Cook’s asthma was so severe, his breathing constricted and his chest tight, he had to quit his job to focus on his health. Today, Cook is an avid runner taking aim at a marathon.
Cook, 50, of Alexandria, Va., is a member of Team AANMA, a group of 12 runners competing in the 38th annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 27 in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia in support of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics, a leading patient education organization.
“Tony and other Team AANMA members are inspiring examples of what people with asthma, exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) and allergies can accomplish,” says Tonya Winders, AANMA Chief Operating Officer. “With an accurate diagnosis, a comprehensive strategy to manage symptoms and a determination to succeed, running a marathon is well within reach. Team AANMA’s support for allergy and asthma will help others achieve their goals.”
Cook credits his breathing turnaround to a new surgical procedure called Bronchial Thermoplasty. Approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 2010 for patients with severe asthma, the procedure heats and reduces muscle tissue along the lung, allowing more air to pass by decreasing the ability of airways to constrict.
“The ‘boa constrictor’ around my chest went away,” Cook says. “I jumped at the chance to join Team AANMA at the Marine Corps Marathon. I loved the idea that I could raise money for AANMA and inspire people with asthma.”
Other Team AANMA members have asthma, EIB or allergies – or are running in support of family or friends with these conditions.
Mikki Hebl of Houston, a veteran runner with an astounding 66 marathons on record, has had asthma since childhood but manages her condition with medication and by avoiding triggers such as cigarette smoke and animal dander. A mother of three, Hebl has run marathons in all 50 U.S. states. “When I’m in shape, breathing is easier,” she says.
Ryan Smith, 39, of Coppell, Texas also grew up with asthma and EIB. After undergoing allergy immunotherapy as a youth, his condition improved. Last year, Smith took up running and vowed to run his first-ever marathon before turning 40. “I have never looked at asthma as a barrier,” Smith says. “I enjoy proving that I can succeed.”
Leah Serlin of Dix Hills, N.Y., and Carly Koelsch of South Euclid, Ohio, are running to pay tribute to people they know with asthma and allergies. Serlin’s brother Jason grew up with asthma and peanut allergy and her 9-year-old son Dylan is allergic to pollen and tree nuts. Koelsch is a nurse at a Cleveland respiratory care clinic where she assists children with severe asthma.
“My hope is that the money we raise educates the public about asthma and allergies, because education is where the healing will start,” Koelsch says.
This is the second consecutive year AANMA has fielded a team of runners at the Marine Corps Marathon. Learn more at http://www.aanma.org/mcm. Visit AANMA’s booth and get free air power testing at the Marine Corps Marathon 2013 Health and Fitness Expo by GE, held Oct. 24-26 at the DC Armory (2001 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC). The expo is free and open to the public.
Read more about Tony Cook – in his own words – in the winter issue of Allergy & Asthma Today, AANMA’s quarterly magazine available in November. (http://www.aanma.org/publication).