Thursday, October 22, 2009

Team Cummings

On Saturday, Oct. 24, a good friend of the trucking industry will try to walk at least a mile for a cause that is important to him and 46 million others known to be affected by arthritis. Ken Cummings is a guy many of us have known for years as a hard-working member of the Newport sales staff.

One of my favorite magazines – Editor & Publisher – once named him number one sales executive. Quite an honor.

Arthritis made it tough for him to trot around the truck shows and other industry events, but he regularly made the scene.

Ken has led a brutal battle with chronic arthritic gout, osteoarthritis-that led to a total knee replacement, as well as a type of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis. So walking a mile may not be a feat for most of us, but for Ken, it’s impressive.

I recently got a note from Ken about this walk, an event that will benefit the Arthritis Foundation, South Carolina chapter. Ken is 68 years old. He and his wife, Sue, live in Briarcliffe Acres, Myrtle Beach. They’ve been married 44 years and have two kids and five grandkids.

We also learned that Ken is a special honoree of this SC Arthritis Walk and his story is one that few of us really ever knew. That story was sent to us and I’ll share some of it with you here. Note: I am quoting freely from that material.

“It seems he was a hot-shot gifted athlete from Brooklyn, NY, where he attended both high school and college on basketball scholarships. He played baseball, too. His athletic dreams ended when early in the first year of college basketball, he bent down to tie a sneaker and he could not straighten up. For more than two years after the sneaker incident, Ken and his mom went from doctor to doctor in New York City with no diagnosis. After a while, it was suggested that perhaps that he was a hypochondriac. Finally, an arthritic specialist in New York City referred him to a rheumatologist who was able to make the proper diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis.”

According to the Foundation, very little was known about AS when he was diagnosed 46 years ago. They did know that it traditionally affected the first-born male, that it was passed on genetically, and it freezes or fuses your spine from the base of the spine traveling up thru the neck. It was extremely painful, restricting and uncomfortable as the disease/inflammation progressed up the spine. As the years went on with AS, Ken has developed limited range on motion between his spine and neck.

In a small percentage of AS patients, the disease – after being in remission for years – will reactivate. Four years ago, Ken fell into that very small percentage. After finally being correctly diagnosed once more, he has been treated with various drugs that have improved Ken’s balance and leg strength and improved his quality of life. It has also allowed him to go in the ocean and pool with his grandchildren and to play some golf which he was told he would never play again.

The Arthritis Foundation provides the funds for research that may allow doctors to gain more knowledge in order to better treat the 46 million people currently known to be affected by this disease. That’s why Ken is participating in the Myrtle Beach Arthritis Walk on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Broadway at the Beach.

The walk is one and/or three miles and no one has to walk any further then they can. Ken says two or three steps helps support the cause.

Check out www.walkwithken.org and see what Team Cummings has accomplished.

On Saturday, we’ll be thinking about you, Ken!