Katerina is a bright young college student living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Officially diagnosed at 17 years old, her symptoms progressed rapidly, leaving her little time to adapt to a physical disability, unrelenting fatigue, chronic pain, leg braces, and a wheelchair/scooter.
Although her CMT symptoms pose many limitations, she’s a fighter and continues to go to college, dance, and play a big part in the CMTA’s new young adult community – Compass. She also is a talented writer, aiming to encourage and inspire others who live with chronic illness, pain, and fatigue.
Listen to her podcast, subscribe to her blog. She’s a gift to our community! xoxo
“He has what?” I asked when the neurologist mentioned something about sharks and a
tooth. Dr. Sum, the pediatric neurologist was using words like nerves, genes, muscle
atrophy, and progression. I wasn’t able to quite grasp what he was trying to convey, but it
did not sound good. Something was amiss with my 7-year-old son, Yohan, and now this
ailment had a name – CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. When he told us this disease
was incurable and progressive, I completely lost it.
Before he left the room, he gave me a card, “Here is the website for the Charcot-Marie-
Tooth Association (CMTA). Call them for a packet of information. In the meantime,
continue with physical therapy, and occupational therapy. I’ll see Yohan in a year unless
something else crops up.” And that was that!
Neither my husband nor I tested positive for CMT, so why is it that my only child had a
heritable genetic mutation causing a life-changing neuromuscular disease? What did I do
wrong? How will we deal with this as individuals and as a family? What does the future
I would ask myself these and many other questions over and over again, trying to
understand, striving to make sense of why an innocent child, my only child, had to endure
such challenges so early on in life. Initially, I experienced grief in all its stages—denial,
anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—and just when I think acceptance
remained strong in my heart, I had setbacks, reverting to anger and sliding down the
ladder once more.
A World Shattered in a Million Pieces
My world shattered into millions of pieces that day, and I never thought we’d be able to
pick up all the scattered bits to rebuild our dreams, our hopes, and our wishes for Yohan.
I quickly learned this reassessment would not be a one-time project, but a repetitive task
taking time, effort, and a lot of soul searching.
Seeing a child struggling with pain, braces, physical limitations, and obvious differences
made me unspeakably sad. My maternal instincts told me to protect, shelter, cajole and
especially do something—anything—to make the world a friendlier, more secure place
for him. The more his self-esteem plummeted and self-confidence lessened, the more I
would try to make his life easier in any way possible.
Yet, kids are resilient and smart. On some level, Yohan felt my fears and reflected them
back by becoming more and more anxious, less focused, and simply put, a very unhappy
child. Something had to give.
What Else Could We Do?
Lightening his load did not seem to be the answer, and neither did catering to his every
need. In retrospect, I was allowing him to be more dependent on me for everything, and
his teachers in school commented on his lack of autonomy and self-motivation.
My husband and I thought long and hard about what was playing out before our eyes and
decided to get some help from a therapist who counsels families on raising children with
medical issues. Intuitively, we knew what measures needed to be taken, but implementing change is hard
and we desperately needed someone to guide us. Slowly but surely, we stopped treating him as different
and let him experience the world on his terms. For me, this was probably the hardest, but most essential
job I had as a parent of a child with special needs.
Tools for Independence
Working together, my husband and I learned how to provide Yohan with the tools needed
to be independent, self-sufficient, tenacious, and optimistic. After numerous
discussions and a lot of trial and error, we got on the same page and worked as a family
towards common goals. My husband started bringing Yohan on camping trips, desert
excursions, and kayaking adventures, treating him like every other kid on the trip.
I changed my mindset, letting him blow off steam on the way home from school, and
listened without judging by creating a safe space for him to open up and talk. Sure, I still
tended to stray at times, fretting over hypothetical possibilities, living much too far in the
future, and being obsessed with “what ifs”—but a shift was taking hold, and overall, life
became more manageable and much more fun.
When all is said and done, Yohan was not the top athlete in his class, so we had the
opportunity to do things a little differently, creating a life full of enriching and rewarding
experiences. Over the years, our motto has been, “Let’s Make it Happen.” We follow our
dreams, live in the moment, cultivate new experiences and live our best lives possible.
Yohan became an expert archer, was scuba-dive certified, visited the Galapagos Islands,
volunteered many hours to CMTA, and graduated from a first-class University and
Graduate school. He is now working in the field of HR for a local start-up company and
enjoying his success.
Encouragement For Parents
If your child/children have CMT, life can still be enjoyable and fulfilling. There is no one
road map to raising a child with CMT, but here are a couple of key concepts I often share:
-Accept (eventually) the CMT diagnosis – it’s the first step.
Talk about CMT with family and friends; don’t hide it.
Help your children describe what CMT is, in their own words, if asked.
Let your children know it will all be okay because it will.
Embrace challenges and praise your children for doing their best.
Create a safe space for your children to talk about frustrations and anger.
Let go and let them live their lives to the fullest, with autonomy and independence.
Laugh heartily and often. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Involve yourself with the CMTA. We have so many resources for parents and kids alike.
Camp Footprint, the CMTA’s sleep-away summer camp for kids with CMT changes lives. Our volunteers make us shine. Get involved and meet forever friends who understand. Neither your children nor you should deal with this alone. We are better together.
I could not be prouder of Yohan. He’s kind, empathic, funny, and engaging. He rarely complains about his CMT, and lives with the knowledge that every day is a blessing, He has a supportive extended family and friends who love him for his authentic self. If there is just one gift with which I wish to leave him, it is the knowledge that he can achieve his heart’s desire. He just has to believe!
– Elizabeth Ouellette
I’ve been volunteering for CMTA for the past 20 years. Here are a few of my most cherished achievements: I created a school-based program, Teaching Kids About CMT, built the national CMTA Branch network, initiated CMT Awareness week, co-founded the Cycle 4 CMT and co-launched the CMTA’s official podcast CMT 4 Me Podcast with my brother, Chris, who is also on the CMTA Board of Directors.
Eleven years ago, late CMTUS founder, Gretchen Glick and I talked about starting the first ever CMT Awareness Week. The 2 organizations (CMTA and CMTUS) worked collaboratively to get the word out about CMT. At the CMTA, I had posters created, wrote email blasts, and asked our branch leaders to spread awareness through groups across the country.
This first CMT awareness week was so successful, that the following year, we dedicated an entire month to CMT awareness, and somehow, Gretchen got American radio host, Shadoe Stevens, to do a PSA about CMT. Listen to this 29-second clip from 2012:
Eleven years later, it is still hard to explain CMT. I read Kenny Raymond’s latest blog post where he addressed this issue, and he brilliantly defines some of the challenges of explaining what CMT is. Thanks, Kenny B. Raymond for putting your thoughts on paper for reflection. How do you explain CMT? Before you answer, read Kenny’s article and then, come up with your elevator speech and share it in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas!
We All Know the Drill
Exploring the Burgeoning Question: “What is CMT?”
by Kenneth Raymond
“Why are you wearing shin guards? You play soccer?”
“What’s wrong with your hands?”
“What’s wrong with your legs?”
Etc., Etc., Etc.
We all know the drill. The answer to the seemingly never-ending questions involves those three lovely letters, C-M-T. And then, the proverbial follow-up, whether it’s a random person in public or even a healthcare provider, requires us to dig deep in hopes of giving them a straight-to-the-point answer that’ll leave them knowing just enough about our disease to remember the name should they hear it again, all the while hoping we give them enough information to know it’s not a tooth disease and that it has nothing to do with sharks.
What is CMT?
“What is CMT?” I’m always trying to improve on how I answer this question. I can easily rattle off some quick factoids, such as CMT is a heterogeneous group of inheritable peripheral polyneuropathies whose name comes from the three doctors who first described it in 1886: Drs. Charcot, Marie, and Tooth; and this name, CMT, has since become an umbrella term that refers to many different inheritable sensory and/or motor neuropathies. Quick and to the point, right? This doesn’t say much about what the disease is though.
Medically, CMT is a genetically caused neuromuscular disease—neuro because peripheral nerve, muscular because the disease in the peripheral nerves causes symptoms in muscles. Genetically caused because each subtype is caused by a mutation in any one of many different genes.
Medically, CMT is an inheritable multisystem neuromuscular peripheral polyneuropathy. Inheritable because each of the genetic mutations that cause CMT are inheritable. Peripheral because CMT is a disease of the peripheral nerves. Polyneuropathy because CMT affects more than one peripheral nerve at a time (poly), as opposed to only one peripheral nerve (mononeuropathy). Neuropathy because peripheral nerve disease. Then, multisystem because CMT can affect hearing, vision, breathing, genitourinary, and much more, in addition to feet/legs/hands.
Statistically, CMT is the most commonly inherited neuromuscular disease nobody has ever heard of. This one is a weird dichotomy unto itself. CMT is a rare disease by every statistical and modeling measure. At the same time, when it comes to inheritable neuromuscular diseases, in totality, CMT is the most commonly inherited. In this context, common and rare can peacefully coexist even if it seems like they shouldn’t.
These above are just a select few examples of how CMT can be described. All of these descriptions are fine and dandy, but not only are these difficult to remember, firing off any of them to Jane Q. Public tends to render confusion about a disease they’ve never heard of. Is there a viable solution—a grand unifying answer, so to speak?
The Elevator Speech
I’m often asked to give my “45-second elevator speech” on what CMT is. My response typically hits several talking points and is usually along the lines of “CMT stands for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and is a rare inheritable neuromuscular peripheral neuropathy named after the three doctors who first described it more than 130 years ago. Although rare by definition, affecting only 1 in every 2,500 people, and totaling about 3 million people worldwide, CMT is the most commonly inherited peripheral nervous system disease. CMT causes the peripheral nerves to stop working correctly; and this leads to muscle weakness and atrophy, joint changes, difficulty with walking, and hand issues. Some who have CMT have breathing issues, hearing impairment, vision problems, bladder issues, and GI issues. The disease progressively worsens over one’s lifetime, there is currently no treatment, the disease can’t be cured, and it affects everybody very differently from one another.” Sometimes, people will ask follow-up questions. Other times, we part ways with only a, “whoa,” and maybe they’ll recognize the name the next time they hear it.
My “elevator speech” has been a go-to for many years, having evolved only slightly since my initial CMT diagnosis. It’s very easy for me to throw it out there anytime I’m asked. Does it say enough about what CMT is as a whole that it could be adopted by anybody who needs a quick go-to description? Until a week ago, I thought it did and I thought it could. What changed?
Bicyclists as a Catalyst
For the first time, I attended the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association’s Cycle 4 CMT fundraising event held annually the last weekend of August in Charlotte, Vermont. This event is huge and people from all over the place, not just locals, attend and/or participate. I met and spoke with many CMTers. Some CMTers were cycling participants riding a treacherous 40-mile course through the western Vermont mountains even though there were shorter less-challenging routes. Some CMTers were there to participate in non-cycling activities. Some were event volunteers. Some were parents who do not have CMT, but their child does (or children do). Some were members of the CMTA leadership and social media teams.
Some of the CMTers at Cycle 4 CMT used wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc. Some CMTers wore leg braces. Some CMTers had breathing issues. Some CMTers had severely twisted and deformed feet. Some CMTers had hearing loss. Some CMTers had speech impairment. Some CMTers had <fill in the blank>. I’m confident there were many hidden symptoms that went unmentioned and unnoticed. Without a doubt, it was the most diverse single-source representation of what CMT is that I have experienced in-person. As I spoke with CMTers and as I looked around, it became apparent that my go-to elevator speech is grossly inadequate and under-represents what CMT is.
It’s well established that CMT can and does affect everybody differently, and even within the same family. CMT can cause many things. Not everybody who has CMT will experience all symptoms of CMT. The mix of symptoms, the severity of individual symptoms, the rate of disease progression, and the overall disease severity can be quite different for every CMTer. What one CMTer experiences cannot be used to gauge or to predict what the disease will be for the next CMTer, regardless of subtype. It’s one thing for me to read it, and another for me to witness these concepts firsthand.
Is There a Solution for the Question?
What is CMT? The answer to that question, as it turns out, is quite different for every CMTer. My CMT is different than somebody else’s CMT. CMT, for me, looks quite different than does CMT for another. CMT, for me, is twisted, contorted, crooked feet that have led to tendons tearing requiring corrective reconstruction surgery of my right foot (and upcoming surgery for my left foot). CMT, for me, is weakened hands that easily cramp, a knee that used to dislocate before corrective surgery, bilateral hearing loss, unrelenting fatigue, chronic whole-body pain, progressively weakening upper leg muscles, spine changes (kyphoscoliosis), premature degenerative joint changes, speech/vocal difficulties, and for me, CMT is breathing issues. For another CMTer, CMT is wheelchair dependency, is an inability to hold and use a pen or pencil, is 24/7 mechanical ventilation via tracheostomy, and is total deafness. Yet, for another, CMT is none of these things, or a is a combination of these.
What is CMT? True to CMT, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. The answer to the proverbial question is unique to the CMTer who is asked. The answer is even unique to the healthcare provider and to the scientific investigator. There are wrong answers to the question, such as a suggestion that CMT is an autoimmune disease. While CMT might share symptoms with some autoimmune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) for example, CMT is decidedly not an autoimmune disease. Nonetheless, the answer to the burgeoning question is dependent on what CMT looks like for the one who’s giving the answer.
If you were to line up ten random CMTers—somebody who has CMT or somebody whose loved one has CMT, and ask each, “what is CMT?” each of the ten answers are likely going to be very different from one another. The differences are not born of inaccuracy or of a misunderstanding of their disease. The differences instead come from how differently CMT looks for each individual and from how each person individually experiences CMT.
What is CMT? For me, CMT is a cruel and often debilitating neuromuscular disease that looks very different from person-to-person. For me, what was once an easy answer to a complex question, or what was a complex answer to an easy question, has become exponentially more difficult to answer. As a CMTer, it’s easy to answer the question by simply describing what CMT looks like for me. As an advocate, however, I’ve learned my “45-second elevator speech,” while it gives a lot of information, is a disservice to the CMT community as a whole. The solution? I resolve to do better. I have to do better. I will do better.
About the Author
Kenneth Raymond was first diagnosed clinically with CMT1 in late 2002, at the age of 29. He was genetically confirmed to have CMT1A a year later. Kenneth has since devoted his life to studying, researching, and learning all things CMT, with an emphasis on the genetics of CMT as they relate to everyday CMTers. As a member of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association’s Advisory Board, Kenneth serves as a CMT genetics expert, a CMT-related respiratory impairment expert, and as a CMT advocate who is committed to raising CMT awareness through fact-based information rooted in the latest understandings of CMT. Kenneth has just published,
Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Gene and Subtype Discovery: The Complete Bibliography – Fall 2022 Release: A Desk Reference for the Everyday CMTer, the Practicing Clinician, and the CMT Researcher Paperback which is available on Amazon. Kenny also has an excellent website and blog to check out: expertsincmt.com
Kenneth Raymond is an administrator of several Facebook groups. He helps people with their CMT questions, especially those related to breathing and genetics. The CMTA is fortunate to have such a well-versed, well-educated Advisory Board member willing to work tirelessly for the CMTA community!
Comin’ at you! What do you get when you mix chaotic creativity with organized comedy? You get the #1 CMT Podcast available today: CMT 4 Me. Despite being polar opposites, this brother-sister team brings it all together in an exciting and informative series focused on all aspects of CMT. Meet Chris and LizO (Chris and Elizabeth Ouellette), dedicated siblings on a mission to magnify the voices of individuals with CMT, share their challenges and success stories, and raise awareness of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
As kids, they learned homelessness was not someone else’s problem.
Giving back is so much more than pizza and donuts for Halloween.
Chris: One, two, three. Hello, everyone. This is Chris and Liz O.
LizO: We’re a brother/sister team.
Chris: And, on behalf of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, AKA CMTA, we are coming at you.
LizO: Coming at you not from coast to coast, from the East Coast. We’re both in Vermont, and I’m here for a couple more days.
Chris: Nice. We’re at our camp in beautiful Colchester, Vermont on the beach of Lake Champlain.
LizO: Yeah, it’s nice.
Chris: So, Liz O, guess what?
Chris: This is another fantastic episode of our famous podcast named what?
LizO: CMT, the number four, me, CMT4Me.
Chris: That’s right. What is this podcast all about? It is a comprehensive podcast covering all aspects of CMT, the voice of individuals living with CMT, their challenges, and more importantly, their inspirational stories. We will also cover research updates, fundraising, and interviews with the CMTA community, such as board members, branch leaders, CMTA leaders, but overall, an opportunity to spread awareness through the eyes of those with CMT. So, Liz O, I’m pretty excited about today’s podcast. Totally different, right? This podcast is going to focus on what?
LizO: Me and you. Who are we? Why are we doing this? Why are we even doing the CMT4Me Podcast? What is our relationship? What are we all about?
Chris: That is right, folks.
LizO: Should we start?
Chris: Yeah, that is right. There is a lot there, and we’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. We really wanted our listeners to understand a little bit more about Liz O and I and our past, our history, why we’re engaged in the CMTA, as Liz O said, why we do this podcast. What I’m hoping is if you folks have questions, you’re able to send those in, and we can answer them on future podcasts. So, where do we start, Liz O?
LizO: Well, do you want to start by saying how I got involved in the CMTA?
Chris: No, I don’t want to start there at all.
LizO: Okay, well then why’d you just ask me?
Chris: Just because I love to ask you a question and then totally, we don’t do it. So, I was thinking … Let’s start a little bit, right? So, I’d like to go back to kind of our upbringing. We were both born here in Vermont.
LizO: Oh, way back.
Chris: We’re going to go way back to the beginning. Just so our listeners know, I am currently … Actually, I’m going to be 56.
LizO: Oh, now we’re talking about you. What the hell? I just started, me, and then you’re like, “Well, I’m going to be.” It’s not about you. It’s about us.
Chris: Right, so this is the Chris Podcast, and you won’t learn much about Liz O, but you’re going to learn a lot about me. So, it’s perfect. I’m right in my element, right in my spot.
LizO: I should have never agreed to this podcast.
Chris : I know, I know.
LizO: Okay, let’s get going. Come on.
Chris: All right, let’s do it. Go ahead.
LizO: No, go ahead. You have this great idea.
Chris: No, it just made me think, right? I’ll be 56 in July. We were born in beautiful Burlington, Vermont. In reflection, it really made me think, what’s the story? And, what’s the connection? One thing about our upbringing, and I think it really ties into the fact that we’re engaged with the CMTA. We’re engaged with the CMT community. And, we’ll touch base upon our fundraiser, Cycle4CMT, going into its ninth year. But, really there’s a pretty good background in terms of why we are engaged and I think why we give back and where that really came from, right? You see where I’m going with this, Liz O?
LizO: Yeah, I do. I do.
Chris: And, what are some of your thoughts on why I think we have this foundation in terms of giving back to the community in a number of different ways over the years? Where’d that come from?
LizO: Yeah, I think the spirit of volunteerism, it came from … I don’t even know if that’s a word, but-
Chris: I was just going to say, “Is that a word?”
LizO Cool. It’s volunteerism. Anyway, it is today. And, it goes back to our mom who has always been very generous, giving, and not just with her family, but with people she doesn’t even know. This is an example, and I know you have many, many more, but at Halloween, everybody loved our house at Halloween, because she just didn’t give a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or a quarter. She would order Domino’s pizza, and everybody would just come and chow down pizza, go out. It was just so much fun, and people remember that to this day.
Chris: I still have friends of mine that are in their 50s, that they go, “Oh, my gosh. How’s your mom doing? I remember those Halloween nights.” And, she also would take the popcorn machine from, at that time, the candy store that our folks owned down on Church Street and be giving out popcorn as well. But, people loved that. Then, I remember we used to have to go out and pick up all the Domino’s Pizza boxes all around the street, because we learned the entire Burlington area. But, it was pretty cool. But, that was her thought, right? Doing something different, right? And, what more could she do? Like you said, there’s so many stories. I think about if you and I ever went with our mom, Bev, to Church Street downtown, one thing is everybody would run up to her. Everybody knew her, right? And, she was always trying to help people, and I remember-
LizO: Not only people that we knew from school, but she knew a lot of the homeless. She knew a lot of the people that didn’t have a lot of money, because that was her focus. She wanted to help this community in Burlington, right?
Chris : Yeah.
LizO: She was always out there.
Chris: That was a full time job.
LizO: Yeah, and she has a degree in psychology, and she would talk to these people. But, for us growing up, I hated it at first. Looking back, I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it, but it was just, where do we have to have Thanksgiving, at St. Jude’s? This is a rooming house she had with people that didn’t have tons of money. It was Section 8 or whatever. And, we had Thanksgiving, but we learned to accept people of all kinds. It doesn’t matter about their financial background, right?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, and I think it was also her way of telling us, A, be fortunate you have a family, right? And, back to that Thanksgiving is about giving back. So, as a family, we will together give back to the community. And, I do. I remember that. I was like, “Oh, my God.” I remember this Thanksgiving, and she decided that, and we’re around all these 80, 90 year old people. What fun, though? She was so humorous. She dumped all these apples in this big container filled with water, and the elderly folks were bobbing for apples. She looks at me, she’s like, “Your turn.” I’m like, “There is no way I’m sticking my mouth in that water.”
LizO: I remember that.
Chris: But, it was great. It was adding fun, and the people loved it.
LizO: Mom is a lot of fun.
Chris: So, I agree with you. She is a lot of fun, but I remember it was that reflection of leaving and being like, “Though I didn’t want to go, that was a good day.”
LizO: It was.
LizO: Right, I am too, and I think life, honestly, and I know this was instilled in us early on, but I think life is about giving back. It’s about giving back to the community, and I take a lot of pride in giving back. Just to volunteer and to help a group of people is a gift in itself. It just makes you feel good, and you know that you can make a difference, right?
Chris : Totally.
LizO: That’s where the CMTA comes in.
Chris: Yeah, and I think talking about that is the CMTA and just thinking about Yohan and his diagnosis and really how you personally have been involved with CMT and the CMTA for how many years now?
LizO So, it will be 20 years in December of 2022.
Chris: And, folks, keep that in mind. That is 20-plus years total volunteering. When I say volunteering with Liz O, this isn’t five hours a week. This is 40, 50 hours a week, weekends, never complains, totally engaged. And, this is what her life has become. I will speak on behalf of those with CMT and people in the CMTA, so fortunate to have someone like that driving to advance research, help find a cure, spread awareness. And, the stories go on and on of what she’s done, but that’s pretty in-cresible. In-cresible? You like that, I just made that word up, in-cresible.
LizO: Just go with it.
Chris: I love it. Hey, instead of incredible, that’s in-cresible. Sweet, okay, I got that down. But, anyways, very impressive. That’s giving back.
LizO: So, when Yohan was born, we had no idea. We don’t have CMT in our family, and so he started exhibiting signs early on just with light sensitivity and walking on his toes. At seven, he was diagnosed, and as parents, we didn’t know what Charcot-Marie-Tooth was. We had never heard of it, and there were very few, few, few resources at the time. They gave us the address of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association. At that time, we had just moved from France to California, and I decided to go back and get a degree in psychology.
LizO: When I was done with that degree, we learned that Yohan has CMT. So, I’m like, “How can I use this degree?” It was sort of just meant to be. So, I just got involved, and there were two people working at the CMTA 20 years ago. We knew a little bit about 1A and other types, but nothing to the extent. We didn’t have the resources at all of what we have today. So, we started building the branch network that we have now and awareness month. It was so fun at that time, because we didn’t have much. With Jeana Sweeney, we just built out the whole organization to all these fantastic resources and met so many people. So, I do this for Yohan, but I just feel like the CMT community is my family.
Chris: Okay, that’s what it is. Yeah, no, it’s pretty impressive, pretty impressive when you think back. I come back to Yohan’s diagnosis and/or my first involvement with CMT, and I actually do recall. I think it was on a phone call where you said, “Hey, Yohan and CMT,” and my first comment was, “What do you mean? What’s CMT? What do you mean there’s no cure? You know where science is. There has to be a cure, and what does this mean for him?” And, it really took me, I think, quite a while to understand what CMT was and/or how that may affect Yohan. Obviously, you guys are in California, so I didn’t see you all the time. All I could hear are some stories about wearing braces and potential surgeries in the future.
Chris: Then, you guys would come to Vermont, and he was very young. You really couldn’t notice very many symptoms being expressed, but also knowing that there was this underlying kind of diagnosis that you guys were trying to navigate through and also trying to explain to the family. So, it was really … Then, the fact, I think for me was every summer coming to Vermont, and he would just … Every year, he’s older and older. Then, I could start over a period of time seeing some of these subtle or slight changes from one year to the next. That brings up the components of, at a young age, hey, let’s go for this walk. Hey, let’s go for this hike. Oh, my God. You’ve really got to come in the winter and try skiing or snowboarding. That’ll be cool.
Chris: And, he engaged in those items. Then, I could see over a period of time, it was like, well, I really don’t necessarily have an interest in doing that. Maybe that was his way to express some of the challenges, though I knew he would want to do it. I could just see that over a period of time, based on his symptoms, that got me a lot more closer to what CMT is and really grasping what this disorder is. I would think it’s probably challenging when you talk to someone who doesn’t know anyone with CMT or what that is. It might be hard for them to make that connection to really what it is.
LizO: It a little challenging, because I will say, “My son has this neuromuscular disorder,” and then they see him, and he looks fine. What are you talking about? You’re totally the making this up, but let’s just go through some of the symptoms that people with CMT have. Chronic pain, burning nerve pain, no feeling, because it affects the sensory nerve, so no feeling in your lower legs or your feet, in your hands. Your muscles start to atrophy, because the nerves don’t work anymore, so people get claw hands, claw toes. They have tremors. It can affect your back, scoliosis, kyphosis. Some people are affected with their vocal cords, their hearing. More people than I thought are affected by their breathing. People need surgeries and the feet don’t fit into the high …
LizO They either have really high arch feet or totally flat feet, and the toes curl. It’s a challenge, and the biggest challenge when Yohan was first diagnosed, they thought he had cerebral palsy. So, I’m like, “Okay, it’s very mild. It’s not progressive.” Then, they came back with a CMT diagnosis, and it’s a progressive disease. So, it’s not going to get better. It’s not getting better. There are treatments like exercise or physical therapy or occupational therapy or surgery, but it’s going to keep getting worse until we find a cure. So, that’s what I’m all about, trying to find research and spread awareness and increase the resources we have. We’re doing a great job in that, but I’m still frustrated that we don’t have anything to stop the progression. But, we’ll get there.
Chris: I think what also hit me really hard in terms of what CMT is, is this was years ago, I think probably in 2014 or so. I think that’s when I joined the board of the CMTA, and I went to a conference in Boston. That was my first conference. So, I’d been kind of exposed to what CMT is with Yohan, not really engaged with anyone else that had CMT and would read stories, positive and negative, et cetera. But, I’ll tell you, going to this conference in Boston, and you were there, and I can totally remember walking out of there that I now have a much better appreciation and understanding of CMT. A lot of things, if you’re not engaged with CMT, I remember the first thing I did. I meet someone over at a table getting coffee, and I go to forcefully do the American awesome-
Chris: Manly handshake, and I grabbed that individual’s wrist, and I’m serious, I felt like I broke their wrist. They just couldn’t really return that handshake that I was so accustomed to and brought up doing in terms of a standard greeting. Then, I looked around the room, and I could see mothers or daughters together in wheelchairs or people having difficulty walking, et cetera. It was really, really mind blowing. I think that was really the turning point for me, that not only through our family and Yohan, but really starting to think about what else can I do to give back to this community? And, that really prompted a lot of different actions, further involvement for me in the board, more engaged, I think, with Yohan, and as we’ll talk about is that leaning into which I’ll say, our ninth annual coming up in August Cycle4CMT fundraiser that I’m really proud of that’s raised over $1.7 million for research. That story in itself, which leads to a number of different topics, is between you and I, is how that fundraiser got started, right?
LizO Right, and before you go into that, I just want to say I’m looking at that picture in back of you, and I see you and Yohan. Yohan was here in Vermont, and I believe there’s always a silver lining in every situation, any situation that’s tough. The silver lining is that you and Yohan have forged such a strong relationship. He thinks the world of you, and I can’t thank you enough for getting involved, because we felt pretty alone in this disease. For you to come out and spend so much time and energy and get the word out and talk about it and understand it means the world to me. But, it also means the world to Yohan, and I can’t thank you enough. Really, he was here, and you guys went to breakfast. He goes, “I think I just want to be with Funcle Chris,” fun uncle. And, you guys just laughing in sync, it just means the world to me. So, thank you for being involved, and I wish more families would get involved in the lives of others with CMT.
Chris: I do. I love him. He’s so awesome. We have such a great relationship, a lot of respect for him. I can’t imagine not doing some of these things. I think too that that relationship with Yohan and the connection to CMT has also prompted my dedication to CMT, not only for him, but as I’m more engaged in the community, with the three plus million people worldwide, and really trying to think of how we can reach those individuals, how we can spread awareness, and what more we can do any way possible. And, the key is funding research, finding a cure for this disorder at some point in time. I do agree with you, Liz O. I think at some point, we will get there. And, you and I were talking about it this morning. The CMTA is a relatively small association. I think we’ve committed well over $20 million in research to date, but it takes so much money, right? It takes so much money just to get to clinical trials, and then the failure rate of clinical trials is very high. But-
LizO: I think the statistics were it takes between 400 million and one billion dollars to bring a drug to market. But, that doesn’t mean the CMTA has to put that much in. We have really attracted pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies. There are more people today working on CMT than ever before, and it will only keep increasing. So, there’s a lot of hope if we can get them to get more involved or we have something very promising. They can take that and bring it to market, because they have the big dollars, right?
Chris Exactly, and going back, Liz O, too, I do want to talk about the inception of the Cycle4CMT fundraising.
LizO: Oh, yeah, let’s talk about that Bahamas trip.
Chris: Bahamas trip, and folks, listeners, we’ll touch base a little bit upon Liz O and I in terms of our relationship, but what we would do as a family I thought is very important is to travel at least once or twice a year, which I don’t say that lightly, very fortunate that we were able to do that. And, I definitely do not take that for granted.
LiizO Can I say something?
LizO I just want to say that your kids had to follow a strict schedule for school, but we would just take Yohan out of school, because early on, we decided that seeing the world is educational, and we would do as many trips as we could. Because, honestly at the time, and we still don’t know what his capabilities will be in the future. And, I’m really, really glad we did that. And, we did take him out of school. Sometimes, he had homework and everything on vacation, but what he learned and the experiences he had, it’s just incredible, and we’ll never get those back. So, I’m so fortunate to be able to have done that with him, really.
Chris: Yeah, it’s cool. And, the fact is right when we would travel, Yohan, he’d do a lot of things. Then, as I stated earlier in this podcast, I would notice he would be able to do less items. He would still have a great time on vacation, but our focus turned a little bit to what was he capable of doing. And, it hit me, and it was 2014. We were in The Bahamas, me, you, Yohan, my wife, Mia, our son, Warren, and daughter, Lila. And, we are sitting there in a Starbucks having coffee, and I was just looking at Yohan, because his feet were all scraped as he was walking around the pool. His water shoes, he had-
LizO: Well, the day before, because I’m so scattered, I got there a day before you and left the day earlier, because I messed up the schedule and the days.
Chris: I forgot that.
LizO: So, that first day we got there, I’m like, “Let’s go in the pool.” And, we had these water shoes. Since he has pinky toes up in claw, we put holes in the pinky toe, and he was out there. He was in the pool and the lazy river, walking all around, and he got out. Since he has no feeling in his feet initially, he looked down. His toes were raw. He had scraped all the skin off his toes, and then the pain set in. That set us up for a limited, limiting vacation, and it was awful.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, no, I remember that. So, we’re sitting there having coffee, and I remember I had just started cycling at that point. I started chatting with you and with everyone there, I said, “What more?” It was going in my mind actually, before I expressed that. I was thinking, what can we be doing, right? I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines. There has to be something we could do. Thank God, you were very knowledgeable because you were engaged with the CMTA and talking about research. I started to think, hey, maybe we put on a cycling fundraiser. And, I have never done any fundraising. I think maybe you were engaged in some fundraising.
LizO: Oh, yeah, I did.
Chris: Maybe it was through branches and things like that, but I was totally new, new to biking. And, I remember saying, “Well.” You asked me what my thought is. I was like, “I don’t know. I just want to tell maybe 10 of my friends, and we’ll try to raise some money, and I’ll go down [inaudible 00:25:59] Vermont and sit on the beach afterwards, and we’ll cook some hamburgers and have a beer or so. Maybe we’ll raise a couple hundred dollars, and I can start there. Then, with the sister/brother team, with your energy, and I think that translated to my energy where, well, that’s not enough, right? What can we do? And, behold, we launched the first Cycle4CMT event in October. It was October that first year in 2014 in Vermont. It was cold.
LizO: It was cold.
Chris: But, it was cool, because we had probably 80 plus participants, and that event was more kind of family and friends oriented. I went out and I posted some cycling routes, and I had these little tiny signs on the side of the road that had arrows to go right or left. I didn’t realize, well, you’re probably at times going downhill, could be going 25, 30 miles an hour. Maybe you won’t. And, people didn’t even see the signs. Everybody went off course.
LizO: Remember, Kevin Thibodeau, he left, and we didn’t even know where he was. And, he came back miles later, not in shape or anything.
LizO: But, you know what’s great is everybody was laughing about it.
LizO: Everybody understood. That’s great. There were two people with CMT, and fast forward, if you go to the eighth annual, we have a lot of people with CMT attending, walking, cycling. It’s really become quite big, and we have an event this year in Wisconsin. Then, we have, well, not an event. We have a ride in Wisconsin, and we have a ride in San Francisco and people doing their own thing. So, it’s really expanding, and it’s really exciting.
Chris: They were.
Chris: Yeah, and it’s cool to reflect back, thinking, sitting in the coffee shop, talking about a fundraiser, and where we are today. As I reference, that has just grown. The attendance, we usually at the signature event in Vermont, which is now always the Sunday prior, the week prior to Labor Day, we usually have about 200 plus participants. There are new faces every year. There are more people coming that have CMT. People go out for a ride. We have a great breakfast. We have a full catered meal. We have live music. We enjoy some local craft beer and cider. We always try to bring in researchers, our leading scientists to talk about where we are in the research front. The cool thing is then we just have a great silent auction. That’s very powerful here in Vermont, right? The community is so engaged. Probably, we’ve had at times 100 silent auction items, ranging from people donating skis, to hiking shoes, to biking jerseys, to gift certificates, to hotels, and you name it. That’s a fun, but not an easy feat to obtain those silent auction items.
LizO: No, the Cycle4CMT is really a lot of work, and every year after the event, we’re just like, “Should we do this next year? It’s taking so much time.” And, what I remember is you have people like Paul Kang and Stephen Lee coming from Washington and Connecticut and talking about little Juliana who died at five years old from CMT. It’s very rare to die from CMT, but it happens. Stephen flew all the way here, and then we had the interns, Emily and Erin.
Chris: They’re awesome.
LizO: They both have CMT, and they’re so, so motivational and inspirational and just great young women. Then, when we go, “Oh, my gosh, we’re so tired.” You want to tell the story of Riley, Riley who came up to you?
Chris: Oh, boy, I’m serious, folks. I’m sure a number of you have done fundraising. It’s not an easy feat, and I’m not saying that to give Liz O and I credit at all. Like Liz O said, every year, we’re like, “Okay, that was the last event.”
LizO: That’s the last one.
Chris: “That was the last one. We’re totally exhausted.” I know when everyone leaves the event on Sunday, we’re laying on the grass, and now we still have to take everything down. No one can speak. We’re totally tired. But, to me, that’s part of it, right? You have to have some blood, sweat, and tears. These things shouldn’t be easy to begin with, but Riley, who’s so awesome, and-
LizO: He’s from Vermont, Essex.
Chris: He’s from Vermont, and how old is he now, Liz O?
LizO: I don’t know. He must be 13, 14.
Chris: Yeah, so Riley, and I don’t know how this got out there, but he at the time, maybe he was eight or nine. And, I’m talking to someone at the event, and Riley pulls on my shirt, and he says to me-
LizO: And, wait, wait, wait. So, Riley’s pretty affected by CMT.
Chris: He is.
LizO: He’s a CMT type four, so that’s two genes causing CMT.
Chris: Yeah, he’s in a wheelchair.
LizO: Now, he is is.
Chris: Or, now. He was wearing braces, I think at the time, needed assistance with walking, and made it over to me, and pulled on my shirt. And, I looked down at this little, little boy with his glasses and big eyes. He said, I think he called me Chris, which was great, “Chris, someone said that this might be the last year that you” … Sorry, folks. This is my emotional point. He said, “I heard you might not do this event anymore.” And, I looked at him in the eyes, and I could see his condition. I just was like, “Riley, this will not be our last event.” It just showed me how important that event was to him and to others. I think that has been not only with Yohan, but the CMT community and folks like Riley, that has driven that kind of tiredness and not wanting to do the event into passion and dedication to continue to move forward, and even though we don’t have a cure today, to stay positive.
Chris: When you can see someone with CMT really have the opportunity to enjoy that event, and as I always say to Liz O, that event, as I reference, is not feedback for Liz O and I in terms of what we do. That event is for people with CMT, and that is why we do it. It’s their environment. It’s their voice. It’s giving them updates on research and doing whatever we can to spread awareness and help raise the necessary money so we can continue on this research path. So, that was inspirational, and it’s very interesting. It’s been probably five years, and every time that story comes up, I just start crying.
LizO: Well, and then Riley spoke at one of the events, and hopefully, he’ll be at the event this year. He probably will. His mom [inaudible 00:33:04] is a good friend. The other thing is he attend attends Camp Footprint, and that’s been life changing for him, but I just remember talking about … He didn’t want to lose the ability to walk, and he has. And, that’s the progressive nature of CMT, and we need to stop CMT. We Need to stop the progression.
Chris: The other thing that hits me at these events as well is the positive energy.
LizO: So fun.
Chris: CMT can have a major impact, however I just find such a positive environment with those that do have CMT. It gives you encouragement and strength to continue to try to fundraise and find a cure, because it’s just such an awesome community. You don’t find people that are sitting there, looking for sympathy. They are talking about what they have accomplished and what they can do. Some folks say, “Hey, if I had a chance” … I don’t know if I would say … It’s hard, right? Some folks would be like, “I don’t know if I’d say. Obviously, I wouldn’t want CMT, but CMT has really made me into this incredible person.” And, that is very heartfelt, warming, and touching to me, to hear those stories.
Chris: So, it’s a great environment. And, folks, this is definitely a pitch for the Cycle4CMT event as well. If you have a chance to get to that signature Vermont event, you’ll be blown away by it. It is beautiful. It’s a great environment. It is a lot of fun. It’s a great cause. On top of that, as Liz O said, there are rides going on throughout the country. You can go to the Cycle4CMT.com website, learn all about the event. But, again that event is for you, and if you can get out there and help fundraise and spread awareness, that’s our goal, and we’d love to have you.
LizO: And, this comes back to what I was thinking. You said people are so positive, and we have such a great group of people who Cycle4CMT. But, I think part of that is talking about giving back, instead of sitting there and waiting for somebody else to do it. Get involved in any way you can, so you’re part of progress. You’re going to be part of our solution. You, your money, even if it’s just a little bit, if everybody just gave a little bit, we’d probably have a cure by now. So, honestly, I just think I can’t sit by and watch Yohan progress or my friends, Bethany, progress, or Jeana, or people I’ve come to love, and Kenny B. I can’t do that. I have to be involved, and all these people are involved, and it feels good to give back. And, it feels good to see progress when we do.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, totally. So, Liz O, you’re talking, and I’m just thinking about our relationship, right? We don’t see each other that frequently, maybe a couple weeks each year. Hopefully, that’ll continue to grow as we-
LizO: You’re too busy. You’re too busy. Every time I call, you’re like, “Yeah, okay.” And, I’m like, “Hey, so” … I’ve got to go. Bye. Got to go. Bye. Got to go. Bye.
Chris: But, you’re busy as well, and it’s interesting. It is a good team. You and I are really two totally different people, but there are a lot of common characteristics as well. I’m going to just give a little bit of feedback, folks, to get you the details of Liz O. And, I would say number one, lot of fun, right? Always laughing, very, very intelligent, very well spoken. We’ve already talked about how she gives back, but on the side, she’s totally scattered, totally scattered. I am always like, “She makes it through the day. She does. I don’t know how she does.
Chris: And, here’s a great example. What does she do yesterday? Comes down to camp. She’s like, “I am going swimming.” I’m like, “Perfect. Go swimming.” So, she puts her bathing suit on. I’m doing something on my iPad, and she comes back out of the lake, and she’s like, “I can’t see anything. I can’t see anything.” I’m like, “What?” She goes, “Did I just jump in the lake with my glasses on?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” So, I’m like, “Here we go.” So, I go out in the lake. I can see these footprints in the sand. I go way out there, and sure enough, there-
LizO: I’m trying to help, and I can’t see anything.
Chris: Yeah, she can’t see anything anyways.
LizO: I’m stirring up all the sand.
Chris: Yeah, so there are glasses on the bottom of the lake, which I recover for her and continue to move on. But, that is not a surprise. There are probably five to 10 of those items that go on through the day. Can’t find her car keys. Can’t find her phone.
ChrisO: She goes on a trip with Gilles, who is our chairman of the CMTA, and what does she do? She loses the car keys in the desert, and he’s out horseback riding. She’s going for a hike, and so thank God, she posted her walk on this app called Strava, and Gilles followed it on Strava and found the rental keys. But, my point is she makes it through in that type of environment, and she’s not scattered on other things. But, those type of things, which aren’t real important to her, you know what I mean? There’s other things, and she gets through it. And, I am a little bit different. I’m not saying I’m not scattered, but I’m a little bit different.
LizO: No, no, no. You’re very different. Listen to this. (singing). I can’t even remember the tune now. (singing).
LizO: No, maybe it is. But, I meant The Odd Couple. We’re sort of like-
Chris: Oh, that is The Odd Couple.
LizO: Oscar and Felix.
Chris: Good point.
LizO: I’m Oscar. You’re Felix.
LizO: So, you’re very organized. You’re very driven. And, you are very structured, and I am not. I am driven. That’s what we have in common, but you’ve always been like that, though. I just remember waking up in the morning, and you were nine. What nine year old looks outside of the window and goes, “Oh, my God, the grass needs to be mowed.” And, you get out there, maybe 10. You’re mowing the grass, and I’m like, “What grass? Who cares? Have it weeds.” It’s so interesting, and I remember I was kind of nervous about spending the night at camp here with you, because-
ChrisO: Well, I was nervous as well.
LizO: I know if I have any crumbs on the counter, he’s going to freak. I don’t know if I’m doing the dishes right. I’m just trying to respect your space. The other day, and I felt bad about this afterwards, but I don’t think of these things. I get a box. We’re over at your house. You have white furniture, which I think is stupid.
Chris: She gets the box out of the garage, folks, my garage that has been … It’s all dusty and things like that.
LizO: It’s not dirty.
Chris: What does she do? She’s like, “Can I have use this box to ship items?” I’m like, “Sure.” So, then what proceeds to happen?
LizO: Then, I take the box and put it on the white furniture and start packing the box. He goes, “Could you please take that box off the furniture?” I’m like, “Why?” I had no idea. It didn’t even dawn on me that the box was dirty or had dust on it. Then, a little aggressively, I kind of rubbed the box into the couch.
Chris: Yeah, that was very nice.
LizO: No, that wasn’t. It was just like it annoyed me, but I apologized later. I should just taken it off, but I don’t think of these things. We grew up just having a blast and jumping in mud puddles. What did you tell me earlier about the bathtub?
Chris: Oh, yeah. No, it was great. I think about growing up, right? And, this comes back to mom. Mom was very structured, very committed, high driving, tons of energy. Even today, the energy is off the charts compared to us. Education was really important to her, the whole aspect of giving back, realizing what you have, and just throwing that in there. Not to digress, but it just made me think, even at Christmas time, I remember as a little kid being in our station wagon, and mom would go buy a couple bikes or something and toys. And, we would drive through the old north end in Burlington, which was somewhat of a depressed area.
Chris: She would see a child or a family and stop, and we’d get out and give them these gifts. But, yeah, very, very structured, but also flexible. It made me think, she rarely got mad. I remember with our brother, Anthony, when you’re younger, you’re taking baths together, and him and I are just always creative. The bathtub is filled, and we’re pretending we’re on a ship, and we’re sliding down the bath, and water is overflowing out of the tub and going on the floor. Mom’s downstairs, and water’s coming through the ceiling and just, oh, okay, great. They’re having fun. Can you guys stop that?
LizO: They’re having a good time.
Chris: I grab blankets, and then I’d be sliding down the stairs and rip the carpet and whatever and smash into the wall. They’re just like, “Oh, the kids are having fun again.” So, that was pretty cool, right?
LizO: But, I think it was. It was, and we just had a lot of freedom. But, our personalities are very different and very alike. I think we’re very complementary. And, you make me laugh, too. You’re funny, so I like that.
Chris: Oh, well, same. Listen, I guess, folks, it’s a great relationship. Liz O, love you very much.
Liz Ouellette: Same back to you.
Chris: It’s cool, and it’s really cool to have the opportunity, these things, whether it’s the fundraiser, Yohan, the CMTA, has really, I think, also kept us connected.
Chris: And, at times I wonder, I think, boy, if we didn’t have that, will we still be connected? And, there’s part of me that says, “I know we would. I know we would.”
LizO: We would.
Chris: Because, there’s that sense of family and appreciation for one another and Yohan and Gilles. You love our kids, et cetera, so that family aspect is big.
LizO: It’s huge.
Chris : And, I think you said it well. I’m proud of that. I do think we have a good example of how a family can come together and strive to overcome a number of hurdles, specifically as related to CMT, right? And, there’s a lot more power with more-
LizO: That’s right, it’s not just me and you. Our parents, our siblings, our community, our family, everybody is involved.
Chris: Yeah, it’s cool.
LizO: They don’t even hesitate.
Chris: That’s good. I hope mom’s listening, because we need her to make a big donation this year.
LizO: Yeah, I know. This is the reason we’re mentioning her. No, I’m just kidding.
Chris: Get out your checkbook, mumsy,
Chris: So, Liz O, let’s talk a little bit about this podcast.
LizO: So this is an idea you had six years ago.
Chris: Years ago.
LizO: Yeah, and people were starting podcasts. We should do a podcast. At that time, I’m like, “How do you even do a podcast?”
Chris. I don’t know.
LizO: Now, everybody has a podcast, but you had this idea, and the board of directors actually supports us 100%, love the podcast. They love the podcast. And, thanks to Mark, it’s pretty easy. And, I love doing it with you. And, we have interviewed some people that are just amazing. Every single person, and so the CMT4Me podcast, and you came up with the name, which you’re very creative also.
Chris: And, CMT4Me. And, again, it’s another … And, keep in mind, don’t just push yourself aside on this one. This is collaborative. That’s what’s cool, and you’re just making me think, whether it’s back in Bahamas. I’m like, “I’d like to do a fundraiser,” but working with you continues that creative. And, where do we go? Because, you don’t want to do anything small, right?
LizO: No, I can’t.
Chris: You’re like, “Okay.”
LizO: It’s either 100% or zero.
LizO: That’s a problem, but that’s the way I am.
Chris: Exactly, so we work well together. That was really again thinking about, with my experience with CMT individuals is that, how do we give more individuals with CMT the platform and voice? As our intro says, it’s really their inspirational stories. How can we get more people with CMT connected to one another so they feel they have support? It goes to the same thing with the fundraiser. It’s a platform, and this podcast is a platform for individuals to express themselves, tell their stories.
Chris: It’s been cool, because there’s been some people that have listened to the podcast that then have reached out to another individual who we interviewed. Or, they’re new to CMT, and now they have resources. So, I feel really good about that. One thing I think we work hard on too, and someone made me think about this, was you don’t always want to just focus on the negative, right? Oh, here’s all the negative things going on. No, we’re realistic, and we talk about the facts, but there are so many great stories about overcoming challenges and sharing information. On top of that, the big goal is spread awareness, right?
LizO: That’s right.
Chris: And, we’ve got to spread awareness. That, I think, ties into how we can raise more money for research, if we have more and more people engaged.
LizO: So, I was just blown away yesterday, and I actually took a video of you soliciting merchandise or a gift certificate from a restaurant. You are such a natural. You just go in there, and I just watch you. Usually, this is our tactic. We walk in a store. I go shopping and buy something. Then, Chris starts talking to the owner about the cycle event, what CMT is, and tries to get a gift certificate while I’m checking out. Usually, the answer is yes, but you’re so talented at it. You just have no inhibition.
Chris: Wow, that’s cool. Thanks for that feedback. But, you participate as well, and it is a strategy. I’m like, “Liz O, you go buy something, because if you buy something, then how can they turn us down?” So, it’s great.
LizO: Then, if I don’t see anything, you’re like, “Well, I like this. I like that.
Chris: Right, so I usually walk away after her visit, multiple pairs of pants, shorts-
Chris Shirts, shoes, you name it. It’s awesome.
LizO: It works.
Chris But, it is, it’s fun, and it’s interesting. I always look at the faces of someone who we’re trying to solicit, and you go, “CMT,” and they’re like, “Okay.” And, then you keep going. This individual yesterday who finally came around, and you learn-
LizO I didn’t think he was going to.
Chris: I didn’t either, but then you learn-
LizO He was clearly like, “Whatever, whatever.”
Chris : You learn, things come up as you keep talking to people. What did he say? I said, “Do you bike?” And, he’s like, “Well, no, I have a motorcycle out there.” Then, that’s like, “Oh, well, I used to ride motorcycles. I had a Honda Shadow 500. Oh, that’s a great bike.”
LizO: So good at making those connections.
Chris: So, you make these connections. Then, you talk about, which I think is important, it’s that statistic of … I always forget. What is it, one in 2,500 or 2,800 have CMT? And, relate that back to say Burlington, Vermont or Vermont, population of 647,000, right? So, when you say, “Hey, we were born in Burlington. We’re native Vermonters, and by the way, you may not know it, but there’s over 200 people in our community that have this incurable disorder at this point.” They start to think, and I find a lot of times, after those discussions, it’s hard for them to say no. And, I don’t feel that they feel the obligation, but I think they understand. And, it’s that passion. And, Vermont is a really community-driven state that is always looking at ways to give back. That also makes it a little bit easier, but then people feel connected, right? You’ve got to bring them in terms of how they can help us towards our mission.
LizO: And, what’s really unique here is the community is important. The community feel, and community comes together when you’re in need. Vermont and the surrounding areas are just great for that. I just miss that. I miss it a lot.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s good. It’s good. We’re on a good path, folks. Liz O, are we coming to the close of this podcast? I think we kind of covered our topic.
LizO: Yeah, we’re probably just talking. I don’t even know how long we’ve been talking.
Chris: People are probably like, “Oh, my God, will these guys shut up?”
LizO: Oh, my God, are they going to stop talking?
Chris: Right. But, folks, listen. For those of you listening to this podcast, this is our opportunity. We’re not going to do our standard close, but to really thank you. Thank you for listening. Back to Liz O’s comment about doing your part as well, if you can tell folks about this podcast, if you can direct them to the Cycle4CMT fundraiser or to the CMTAUSA.org website, we need all hands on deck here.
LizO: Back to the ship in the bathtub reference.
Chris: I know, I know.
LizO: All hands on deck.
Chris: And, Liz O, maybe some of our listeners can help us if we spread this right. What’s one of our goals that we’d love to do someday, is kind of-
LizO: Oh, my gosh, we would love to be-
Chris: When you think of the news, and what would we love to do? It’d be sweet.
LizO: I’m so sick of hearing negative things. It’s all negative. So, I see this-
Chris: The news? You mean in the news?
LizO: Yeah. Yeah, everything is just negative and worrying and worrisome. Let’s get a feel good story like us helping the CMT community to find a cure for this disease and talk about all the people that do such incredible things, despite the limitations that CMT imposes. Wouldn’t it be great, Good Morning America? Or, there’s so many, so, so many programs that we would love to be on.
Chris: Right, CBS News. Maybe we could be interviewed by someone who has a podcast now.
LizO: That’s right.
Chris: That has a greater reach.
LizO: Guys, we want to go national here. We want to go international, actually. We’d like to go international.
Chris: That’d be cool.
LizO: Get the word out about CMT. We work with people internationally, so let’s get this on. Let’s get going.
Chris: Yeah, let’s do it.
LizO: Do it.
Chris: Yeah. Liz O, have you heard of those Sprinter vans?
Chris: No, okay. Well, they’re these cool vans you can put your bike in. People are buying these things now and throwing their skis in there and bikes and whatever. But, it made me think, wouldn’t it be kind of cool at some point where we could have as your background as the CMT4Me podcast logo on the side of this Sprinter van, and we tour the country and go to these areas and interview people with CMT. Wouldn’t that be sweet? That’d be fun.
LizO: Yeah, it would be fun, and we’d meet so many people. Now, that’s a story. Now, you’re cooking.
Chris: What’s it? Who’s the-
LizO: Alan Jackson?
Chris: No, no. Yeah, yeah, that’s Alan Jackson.
LizO: CMT came out, and I’m like, “Chris and Gilles, you guys have to bike there. You have to bike there, and we can make a story.” Chris was like, “I’m not biking there.”
Chris: No, it made me think of Al Roker, right? He goes on the road sometimes and travels in this van and does the weather in all these different areas of the country. We could do the podcasts in all these different areas of the country.
LizO: Yeah, let’s do it. You have to just stop working.
Chris: Yeah, okay, that sounds great. I hope people from-
LizO: Hey, talking about the podcast-
Chris: I hope people from where I work are not listening to this. No, just kidding.
LizO: So, about the podcast, if you want to leave a review, and we’d love to have your review, Apple Podcast has a place for that.
LizO: Yeah, so I just wanted to throw that out there, and it’s available on Spotify, Apple, all the major podcast outlets. You can hear this podcast, CMT4Me.
Chris: Awesome. All right, Liz O, time to go. That’s a wrap, sis.
LizO: All right, thanks, everyone for listening.
Chris: Yeah, thank you.
LizO: Cycle4CMT.com or CMTAUSA.org. If you have an interesting story, let us know, info@CMTAUSA.org, info@CMTAUSA.org. And, watch us on YouTube. We’re live.
Thank you all for your unwavering support of a cause so dear to my heart – CMT. Yohan was diagnosed 22 years ago with this progressive neuromuscular disease (the nerves deteriorate and in turn. the muscles atrophy). Where has the time gone?
As we turn the page, Yohan, at 29, is starting a new chapter in his life. Despite a year of setbacks due to COVID, he never gave up his quest to find a satisfying job and he succeeded!
Gilles introduced Yohan to cycling several years ago. Having never biked as a child, Yohan did not know what it was to ride around the neighborhood with his friends. Now, he is experiencing freedom on 2 wheels – an exhilarating activity. His e-bike has changed his world.
As Yohan moves forward with his life, his CMT moves right along with him, damaging his nerves and making his muscles weaker and weaker. As a parent, it is extremely hard to watch your own child lose the ability to walk, open cans, and lack the energy to fully participate in life. Yet, Yohan never complains. He embraces his reality with humor and acceptance. Yohan truly is an amazing human.
It takes 10 years and a billion dollars to bring a drug to market. 90% of drug candidates in clinical trials fail. These numbers may sound discouraging, but because the genetic cause of CMT has been identified, we have been able to make remarkable progress recently. When one of our sponsored projects shows promise, our pharma and biotech partners step in to provide the additional funds to take them to clinical trials.
This year, my family (Me, Uncle Chris, Yohan and Gilles) is once again organizing Cycle 4 CMT events around the country. The signature VT event is on August 28, 2022. The San Fran Bay Area ride is on September 17, as is the ride in Wisconsin. Many around the country are doing their “OWN” ride, cycling anywhere, anytime before September 30, 2022.
After 20 years dedicated to CMTA, my time at this wonderful organization is winding down, but I refuse to disappear into the night. I’ll never be too far, and my heart will always be with my friends and family who deal with this cruel disease every single day. Whatever the future holds, let’s make this 9th annual Cycle 4 CMT the most memorable in CMTA history!
Here is my ask: Please sponsor me on behalf of Yohan. My goal is the sky, but I’m really aiming for the stars. My dream? To raise as much money as possible to change Yohan’s life and the lives of many living with CMT. To date, there is no cure for CMT. I have a big problem with that. Let’s change the course of this disease, together. Please give generously: www.cmtausa.org/elizabethcycle Checks accepted! Send to CMTA, PO BOX 105, Glenolden, PA, 19036. Please write Cycle 4 CMT n the memo line.
If you’d like to join an organized ride or do your “OWN” ride/walk to raise funds for CMTA research, please visit – www.cycle4cmt.com. Everyone is welcome!
We’re back! Yohan yelled, sliding the door to the garage open. I noticed he was walking funny, not CMT funny, but like he had a stiff leg, a heavy foot, an injured limb? My perplexed look begged the question… What now?
He brushed off my concern, acting if I were being overly paranoid and concerned (like usual). “We had a great ride and of course, on the last mile, I was tired and I took a spill. I just sprained my ankle… and…well my elbow is banged up. Oh…. and sharp stick pierced the palm of my hand when I hit the ground, but overall, I’m fine. It’ll be better in a couple of days, he said, limping down the hallway.”
After a hot shower and short rest, I took a look at the damage. “My ankle is hardly swollen,” he insisted. I pointed out that the last time I had looked at his ankle, I could see a prominent ankle bone. Now it looked puffy and bloated, as if a small jelly fish had snuck in there and took up residence. So, the crutches came out of the closet, along with the sickening memories of past orthopedic surgeries, months and months of plaster casts, pain, boots, stinky feet, scars, blood and sores.
Our bald kitties ran across the hardwood floor to greet him, but one look at the clanking crutch made them hit the brakes and off they went sliding uncontrollably, face planting into the wall. Thank God the cats make us laugh!
Recognizing the all too familiar clunk, thud, clunk, thud of Yohan’s footsteps as he made his way across the room, I too wanted to hit my head against the wall, cursing CMT to eternity and back.
Yohan’s had so many trips, falls, ankle sprains and surgeries, he knew the drill. No, not RICE. We changed that acronym to RICED. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Drugs…can’t forget the Tylenol, Aleve, etc.
There wasn’t a lot of pain, but by Monday, Yohan intuitively knew he’d better get it checked out by his doctor. This was the foot on which he has had 2 reconstructive surgeries, with mediocre results.
When the films were placed on the viewing pane, there were a lot of aahs and oohs. His x-rays lit up the room like lights on Christmas tree. The techs were amazed at the hardware holding his foot together. But who was the jokester who took a pen and drew a fine line across the outer leg bone?
Diagnosis? A hairline fracture of the fibula requiring 2 months in a walking boot, 24/7, except to bathe. Ugh. Well, it could have been worse, but it still sucks.
Home we went, trying to wrap our heads around the news. The first order of business was to purchase an even-up foot riser to avoid throwing his opposing hip out of joint. He learned pretty quickly that the even-up foot risers are treacherous as they get caught on everything…..even air. The utmost caution is warranted. And if you don’t catch the edge of the foot riser on something, the cats will make sure you fall…..hard.
Walking on 2 CMT feet is tough. Put one of those in a boot and now balance on one very high-arched foot, whose toes curl in and up, and sprinkle in some ankle supination (outward turning ankle). Not for the faint of heart!
Next, he looked for additional boot liners. Seriously, they send you home with 1 boot with liner. The “hand wash only” liner smells like death after the foot is enclosed within its sweaty fabric for only 24 hours. Yohan ordered a second boot (the lux version of the same brand) so he could wash the liner every other day. Luckily, when a piece of the plastic from the first boot started digging into his heel, he had a cushy alternative.
The pain from the fracture was bearable, but he started to get a painful pressure sore on the bottom of his foot which thankfully abated when slipping his orthotic into the boot. The first several nights sleeping with the boot were tough, but gradually his body got used to the inconvenience.
This morning, he woke up with a smile!! He was celebrating his 2 weeks down, six weeks to go in a boot! He’s a glass half full kind of guy.
Taking a step back, here are my reflections:
Yohan’s new electric mountain bike offered a rainbow of opportunity, where, for the first time in quite a long while, Yohan could just be one with his friends, his dad, and his people. He did some pretty amazing rides, going places and seeing things not seen before. And these days are not gone, just suspended for a short period of time. Not the end of the world, but a bummer all the same.
I guess we all have ups and downs. Personally, I prefer the ups, but don’t we all? I believe the ups build experience and self-esteem and the downs build strength of character. And then there are all the in-betweens. Every emotional state –happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, anger – is transient, so accepting the peaks and valleys with calm and acceptance makes each situation a little easier to handle.
Life’s highs and lows are an inevitable part of being alive, so I try to enjoy the highs, learn from the lows and experience everything else in between with an open heart. I know….easier said than done.
Yohan will get through this small setback. It will become a faint but unforgettable memory that will be part of his ongoing arsenal when dealing with upcoming challenges, setbacks and successes. He’ll get back on that bike…of this I’m sure. Why? Yohan is no stranger to adversity.
He’s not giving up or giving in. He’s found an activity he thoroughly enjoys, an activity which is exhilarating and fun, creating long-lasting memories of freedom and adventure. Also, he’s determined to cycle in the Cycle 4 CMT event with his Uncle Chris, his dad and maybe even me! The Cycle 4 CMT (in person or virtual) is so much more than a cycling event……It’s a celebration of strength, resilience and community.
Join us in the spirit of uniting with like-minded people, to fund research to put a stop to CMT. There is no cure for CMT… yet. But there will be because we, our CMT warriors, friends, family, loved ones, are going to make it happen. Grateful, so grateful for our community. Xo
The training wheels came off my own bike so long ago; I’d forgotten the emotions, challenges and vulnerable feelings of trying to balance on two wheels for a few pedal strokes without crashing to the ground. In fact, I had always taken riding a bike for granted until my 5 year-old son, Yohan, attempted to ride his bike without stabilizers. The experience was stressful, defeating and frustrating.
“This is not fun. Not fun at all. I’m done.” he said as he walked slowly back in the house, head down. “I keep tipping over. I can’t get my feet on the pedals. I’m going to die out there. Biking’s dangerous and stupid!!” When Yohan sets his mind to something, there is no going back. He gave up biking on the spot – forever?
Fast forward 15 years to the excitement of leaving home for University. Yohan was thrilled to have been accepted to Pitzer, a small college in southern California, expanding over 35 acres of relatively flat land. At 20 years old, Yohan’s arches had become extremely high, his toes curled and his ankles, unstable. Chronic burning pain and fatigue were also issues to taken into consideration. Pitzer did not offer transportation between classes, so we discussed alternative solutions.
How about trying a moped, a scooter, a golf cart, or a Segway (I was half joking about the Segway)? Every single idea was shot down in a blink of an eye, until Yohan’s dad mentioned a bike. There was a pause before Yohan said, “Lemme think about it.”
The following week, we were looking for a bike with a low crossbar. “Oh, you are looking for a girl’s bike?” joked the salesperson. No one laughed. “Idiotic comment.” I muttered under my breath. “No, we are looking for a low top tube for people who have a hard time swinging their leg over that bar.”
At about the same time we purchased Yohan’s bike, my brother, Anthony, happened to be in town. He spent an hour with Yohan in our long driveway, providing the guidance, confidence and tips Yohan needed to succeed. With a little practice, Yohan overcame a lot of his fears, stayed upright and felt comfortable enough to bring the bike to campus, where he used it a handful of times to get back and forth to class.
Riding a bike on campus comes with its own challenges, including other student bikers doing wheelies, skateboarders weaving in and out of people, inattentive students tuned into their cellphones, etc. At graduation, we packed up all his belongings, minus the bike, which was in a state of complete disrepair, still attached to a bike rack, with a kryptonite lock whose combination had been long forgotten.
Just when we thought biking would never be in Yohan’s future, we rented a Scott e-bike during a trip to Tahoe….and overnight, a cyclist was born. He was able to go farther, faster, and for the first time in his life, could accompany his friends and his dad on some longer rides. It has a low step-through design (aka a girl’s bike), and in pedal-assist mode, you still get a great work out and have backup power when needed.
So, this year, for the VIRTUAL 7th Annual Cycle (and Walk!) 4 CMT, Yohan rode his e-bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, up the Marin Headlands, and back for a 20 mile ride with 2200 feet of climbing. Never would we have thought that the child who could not ride a bike due to lack of balance, sensation, and confidence would one day ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, maneuvering around pedestrians, cyclists, kids, dogs, etc… There were setbacks, spills, road rash, fatigue, but with the support of friends, family and our CMT community, he conquered. The smile says it all….and more! Thanks to all our supporters and cheerleaders – You are CMT Champions!
This is a transcript of the CMTA’s recent STAR gene therapy webinar. CMTA Board Chairman Gilles Bouchard begins by giving an overview of CMTA’s research initiative – STAR (Strategy to Accelerate Research), followed by an in-depth review of our gene therapy program by Drs. John Svaren and Kleopas Kleopa, members of our Scientific Advisory Board. These world-renowned researchers will explain what gene therapy is, how it can be used to advance treatments for CMT, and cover the latest advances from the STAR program. This webinar will also explain how we are preparing for clinical trials for many types of CMT.
STAR stands for “Strategy to Accelerate Research,” and it’s really core to the CMTA’s mission: our role is to accelerate treatments for CMT. In this work, we are driven by you and powered by you, the CMT community. You provide more than 80 percent of our resources, so, in essence, STAR is really your program. STAR is for you, and by you.
When we started STAR over 10 years ago, we really wanted to take a business approach. We wanted to bring the rigor, the focus, the accountability that you have in a business.
When you run a business, the first thing you do is try to figure out your strengths and your weaknesses, and the best strategy to be successful.
Taking drugs to market is a tough business, and it takes well over 10 years on average to develop a drug. Most new drugs fail in clinical trials. And it costs hundreds of millions of dollars. So how do we make this attractive to partners? How do we accelerate research?
One of the most attractive things about CMT is that for most types we have very well-defined genetic causes. CMT is what the scientists call a monogenic disease, which means we can replicate and test this disease in the laboratory.
There are also a lot of new therapies and technologies to address genetic issues. And those play right into what CMT is as a disease.
Biotech companies once looked at CMT as a slowly evolving disease, which would therefore require very long and very expensive clinical trials. If anything, this has been the biggest inhibitor for pharmaceutical companies to get involved in developing drugs for CMT. So more than 10 years ago, in partnership with the Inherited Neuropathies Consortium (INC), we embarked on a major effort to develop what are called biomarkers, and also to develop an important clinical infrastructure so it would become much easier, faster and cheaper to run clinical trials on CMT. We have made tremendous progress there. And this barrier is really starting to crumble.
Finally, from a business point of view you may think being a rare disease is a disadvantage, but because of the laws in the US and in Europe, it is actually attractive for companies to work on rare diseases. There are some advantages for businesses on the tax side and the protection of intellectual property.
So, if attracting partners is the core of our strategy, how do we make CMT attractive to partners? We need them because even though we’ve raised a lot of money from this community, we don’t have the billions of dollars it takes to develop drugs. In working with partners, we found that there are five key things they look for.
The first one is what they call KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) or experts. In general, companies are experts in drug development, but they don’t know CMT very well. So they want to engage with CMT experts. That’s why we built our incredibly strong Scientific Advisory Board with over 30 great scientists.
The next thing they want is the ability to test in the lab, what we call preclinical tests. This is how drugs are developed, and we spent a lot of effort building a very broad, very powerful preclinical testing infrastructure. When they contact us and see what we’ve developed thanks to your support, they tell us that they feel like kids in a toy store!
The third one is clinical trial readiness. This was a major inhibitor for CMT research and for companies. But again, we’ve made tremendous progress, and we feel that we can run much shorter clinical trials.
That’s great on the medical side, but companies also want a strong, reliable and trustworthy business partner. What we found is not all companies are the same; they want different things. So we have to be flexible and adapt how we work with them on the business side based on what they need. Some companies, for example, are early stage companies that need money so we do co-funding with them. But others are loaded with money and they are looking more at licensing or buying technologies that we’ve developed with our partners. Other companies are looking at raising money, so we help them and engage with their potential investors. We have a lot of people with business experience on our board, and we really try to leverage this to help companies be successful on the business side as well.
Last but not least, what’s really interesting is that companies are very interested in engaging the CMT community, especially as they get closer to the clinical treatment of patients, because ultimately the CMT community is their market. So they want to know the impact the disease has on the patient community. Moreover, engaging patients is becoming very important as part of the approval process of drugs. In Europe right now you have to partner with a patient advocacy group to get a drug approved. And in the US the FDA is doing more and more of the same thing. So the fact that we can reach tens of thousands of CMT patients and that we have this really vibrant CMT community is a great asset for us and really attractive to our partners.
Now may ask, how is this working? We just put a few numbers together, and thanks to your support, we’ve made tremendous progress. We also realize that we have a lot of work left to do, but we feel like we’re in a really strong position right now.
We have a expert Scientific Advisory Board.
We have about 50 active projects, by the end of the year, we’ll have invested $15 million in CMT research.
We have developed really helpful testing tools for all major types of CMTs that our companies are using.
As a result, we now have 25 industry partners. That’s a really important metric—the one thing that makes us the most hopeful about the future. A few years ago we just had a handful of partners and it was hard to bring them in. Now people approach us all the time because they want to work on CMT with us. They want to use our tools and infrastructure. And you can look at these numbers, these 22 joint preclinical studies. Those are 22 actual studies that people are running this year using our infrastructure. Now, last year, this was only a handful. So in business terms I think we are seeing a bit of an inflection point: you invest and you work hard for a few years, and all of a sudden your business starts taking off. That’s what we’re seeing right now in CMT research. A lot of things are starting to accelerate!
And then we have this really wonderful, vibrant community—all the CMTA branches around the country and the CMTA Centers of Excellence. This has created a very powerful and helpful infrastructure, not just for us as a community, but also for our partners as well.
When we look at where to invest in STAR, we try to look at leverage points. So there are a lot of areas where we invest that cut across all CMT types or many CMT types.
We already talked about the testing infrastructure that we’ve developed that cuts across most types of CMT.
We will cover and go in depth today into gene therapy.
We’ll cover biomarkers as well.
Another area that’s quite interesting but we’re not going to cover as much is Axon Degeneration. It turns out that a lot of companies are working on ways to prevent nerves from degenerating for a broad set of neuropathies. And they want to use CMT as one of the rare disease indications for this. These companies are working with us now to try to find ways that to slow down or even stop the damage to nerves with some of their drugs.
Finally, you’ll hear about all the great progress on gene therapy. Obviously to apply gene therapy you need to know which genes to fix. So we’ve really doubled down on trying to find more CMT genes.
This is an overview of what we do across all types of CMT. Dr. Kleopa and Dr. Svaren are going to focus on a couple of them today, but keep in mind that while we won’t cover everything we do today, we have very thorough plans for each major CMT type and, in general, three or four key projects which are specific to each type.
Gene therapy is the use of genes or gene editing as a treatment. This process involves the introduction of genetic material, for example DNA or RNA, into cells and tissues of an individual instead of other treatments such as drugs or surgery.
There are different types of gene therapy, including replacing a faulty gene that would be a missing or mutated gene that can be replaced by a healthy copy of the same gene, or inactivating or silencing a mutated gene that has taken a toxic gain of function—a harmful effect on the body that occurs because the gene is functioning improperly.
And finally, editing a part of a mutated toxic gene that has a harmful effect—essentially a cut and paste approach where you selectively cut out part of the gene and replace it with a healthy part of the gene. This is a technically more challenging approach than replacing or silencing a gene.
How does gene therapy actually work?
In most cases we use viral vectors (tools commonly used to introduce genetic material into cells) to deliver the therapeutic gene. These viruses are used as vehicles to package and deliver our therapeutic genetic material. They have been modified so that they’re not infectious or contagious. They have the ability to enter the cell.
Once inside the cell they will release the genetic material and that will start the production of the protein, and this will correct the defect in the cell and be a treatment for the disease.
And here it’s important to note that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime treatment, so once the virus is inside the cell and releases the genetic material, it will stay and keep producing the protein that the cell needs to function.
Now let’s look at the types of CMT so that we can understand how we can apply gene therapy to CMT neuropathies.
First of all, nerves are bundles of many nerve fibers, and most of them are wrapped in myelin. They are similar to electrical cables, as you can see in the picture on the lower left, that are made of many wires and these wires have a plastic coating.
And in nerves this coating is called myelin. It’s an insulating and protective coating that is formed by specialized cells known as Schwann cells. Myelin is very important because it speeds up the conduction along the nerves by a hundred times, like going from 3G to 4G, but also supports and maintains the nerve fibers.
So depending on whether the damage is in the Schwann cells in the myelin or in the axons, we will have demyelinating types of CMT or axonal types of CMT.
In the diagram of a healthy nerve that would for example be a motor neuron, you notice that it starts with the cell body which is located in the spinal cord, and that sends a long extension all the way to our muscles in the arms or legs. This is the peripheral nerve. All along this nerve you need to have myelin and this is formed by Schwann cells.
There are over a hundred different genes that can cause CMT neuropathies. They have various functions in the cell, and this results in many different mechanisms. If the mutated genes are mostly expressed in Schwann cells, then you have a demyelinating type of CMT because myelin suffers first. But this will eventually also destroy the axon. And if the mutations are found in neurons then we will have an axonal type of CMT.
In addition, we classify CMT neuropathies by the type of mutation and whether this is a toxic gain of function mechanism or a loss of function. And that will also determine the gene therapy approach.
So what are the potential gene therapies we can use for CMT neuropathies?
We have to address the disease mechanism described in the previous slide. For CMT neuropathies that are caused by a loss of function of the gene (this is the case with most CMT4 neuropathies and CMT1X), we have to introduce a healthy copy of the gene, so that’s a gene replacement.
For CMT neuropathies with a toxic effect of the mutation (as is usually the case with CMT1 and CMT2 types), we have to either silence the toxic gene, repair it, or modify it so that we can prevent the toxic effect.
In addition, we have to deliver this treatment to the particular cell type that needs the treatment. So for the myelinating CMTs we have to target the Schwann cells and for the axonal CMTs we have to target the neurons, so that means a different approach because the cells are located in different parts of the body.
Now that you’re all experts on CMT genetics and gene therapy, let’s outline the efforts that the CMTA has spearheaded to try to bring new treatments to the clinic!
The science of gene therapy has actually been around for a couple decades. But there were a number of safety issues that had to be addressed. What has generated a lot of excitement in the last couple of years are treatments that are FDA approved for different diseases. The specific example we want to discuss is a disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This is actually a motor neuron disease, and it actually affects the same neurons that are affected in CMT. But SMA is a devastating disease that affects infants, and until recently there was really no treatment. But there are now two new genetic therapies that have been recently approved for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
This includes AAV gene replacement therapy using viral vectors, just as we just outlined, by a company called Avexis. The diagram above summarizes how this therapy works, again by delivering the correct gene to the motor neurons. And there’s another genetic therapy involving antisense oligonucleotides (small pieces of DNA or RNA that can bind to specific molecules of RNA and block the ability of the RNA to make a protein or work in other ways) which we’ll cover a little bit later. The good news for SMA is that there were dramatic effects with both therapies, as long as they’re administered early enough in the disease.
We’re not only grateful for these advances for SMA, but they also provide us with an avenue we can pursue with CMT because it affects many of the same cell types affected by CMT.
To take advantage of this, we convened a gene therapy workshop for CMT in the summer of 2018 to get our plans together and take advantage of a number of different advances. We invited scientists and clinicians that were involved in SMA, Muscular Dystrophy, and different types of CMTs like CMT2D and CMT4J. There are also trials going on for Giant Axonal Neuropathy, or GAN.
We have number of assets that we outlined earlier. First of all, we had previously funded efforts of Dr. Kleopa to apply gene therapy and we’ll cover these specific examples in a minute. We have also partnered with other companies using ASOs. The animal models that we have developed are very important testing systems for development of gene therapy for CMT.
Another aspect that’s not to be neglected is the fact that we need to have good biomarkers (measurable indicators of the severity or presence of some disease state) and clinical trial planning expertise, which is critical for labs that want to invest in CMT.
And then ultimately we realized that we needed to recruit some leading gene therapy experts to our Scientific Advisory Board to lend their expertise and their advice as we move forward.
These experts include, Dr. Kleopa, from whom you just heard, who’s really pioneered a lot of the development of gene therapy for demyelinating CMTs. And then we have two additional experts: Steven Gray at University of Texas Southwestern, and Scott Harper at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. They are really leaders in the field, Dr. Gray for example is already engaged in efforts for CMT4J and another type of CMT (GAN). Recruiting these experts has been instrumental in us being able to plan how we can best use CMTA investments to accelerate the development of new gene therapy treatments.
With their advice we have formed a plan essentially to:
Develop a CMTA sponsored effort to target CMT2 using AAV9-based gene therapy. AAV9 has been used in other FDA approved treatments, and we decided initially to focus on the most common form of CMT2 which effects roughly 10 percent of people with CMT. This is caused by mutations in the Mitofusin-2 gene and is classified as CMT2A.
Our second objective is to develop gene therapy for CMT types 1 and 4, the demyelinating forms of CMT. Dr. Kleopa’s work in this area will be covered in the next several slides. Basically we need to optimize our approaches to improve delivery of the genes to Schwann cells. And we also definitely want to target the most common form of CMT which is CMT1A using another kind of technology called RNA interference.
And finally, we want to develop company partnerships that can help us actually bring these therapies to market.
On that last point, just one year after this workshop, we were pleased that our efforts met with some success particularly in our initiative to develop a new gene therapy for CMT2A. Based on studies by one of our board members, Dr. Robert Baloh, we found that there is a way to overcome the mutation in CMT2A.
We formed a partnership with one of the leading companies in the gene therapy space, Passage Bio. You may be aware of the announcement that came out a while back where we formed an alliance that will develop and test gene therapy using some of the rat models of CMT2A that were originally sponsored through the CMTA. This will be a broad collaboration, including the Inherited Neuropathy Consortium (INC), to sponsor preparations for clinical trials in CMT2A.
We should mention that we have other efforts on other types of CMT in discussion with not only Passage Bio, but with other companies as well.
We wanted to have a comprehensive approach for different types of CMT. The pie chart represents the different types of CMT ranging from the most common—CMT1A—to some that are much rarer. And the arrow around the pie chart shows the number of types of CMT that are covered under existing plans or projects, or ones that are under discussion.
We are well on our way to covering almost 75 percent of people affected by CMT with our ongoing projects, and we’re hoping that we can expand that in the future. This includes AAV delivery and many different technologies, and we’ll mention more about gene silencing and Antisense Oligonucleotides in a minute. We are trying to leverage success in one type of CMT to achieve success in other types as well.
Let’s look at two examples of gene replacement that we have developed for two representative types of demyelinating CMT neuropathies. The first one is the X-linked CMT which is one of the most common types. It’s about 10 percent of all patients, and this results from a loss of function of a gene that is important for Schwann cells.
Our strategy was to design a viral vector to deliver the healthy copy of the Connexin gene to Schwann cells. With several years of work we have shown that we can achieve a replacement of this gene in Schwann cells and, in the picture above, there are examples of an untreated and a treated nerve and you can see that the myelin structure has improved in the treated nerve. This translates also into improved function with better muscle power and improvement of the nerve conduction velocity.
This is an initial proof of principle that we can actually achieve a treatment for this type of CMT with gene replacement.
The second example is about CMT4C. It’s a rarer type of CMT but very important because it’s representative for all the recessive CMT4 demyelinating neuropathies. Like for CMT1X, we designed a vector to replace the mutated gene in Schwann cells. We showed that we can achieve the expression of the gene using this viral vector. The slide shows pictures of an untreated nerve on the left and a treated nerve on the right, and you can appreciate the improvement of the myelin structure and better preservation of the nerve fibers. This translates into improved motor performance. The muscle power is improved and the nerve conduction velocities are faster, again providing proof of principle for this technology.
Still we have a long way to go before we can reach the stage of clinical testing. We have now several lines of activities trying to optimize the tools in order to reach that stage.
Four major issues that we are trying to address include first of all the finding of the optimal viral vector. We’re focusing on vectors that have been already used in clinical trials, and selecting the best one to target Schwann cells. We also evaluate the best way of injecting these vectors that will be safe and easy to apply to patients. We want to make sure that these vectors have no toxicity—that they’re safe—and we also want to make sure they can get to the whole nerves around the body because this is what we need to correct in the demyelinating CMTs.
These issues are really crucial not only for the two types that we described before but for all demyelinating CMT neuropathies. So results from this work will be relevant for moving ahead with other types of demyelinating CMT.
We’re also focusing on optimizing the treatment for CMT1X using new and safer vectors, and we want to show that the treatment can benefit various CMT1X mutations both before and after the beginning of the neuropathy, which is a very relevant question for patients.
And for CMT4C we also developed a new vector that is safer to deliver the mutated gene and demonstrate that we can benefit the model. So we hope that this work will get us closer to clinical testing with the proof of principle that these treatments can work.
And we are very excited also to mention that this work has attracted interest from several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Although there are remaining challenges, we have confidence we can overcome them. The success achieved in CMT1X and 4C by Dr. Kleopa is actually encouraging for CMT1A, so we’re focusing our efforts to apply this technology to CMT1A, which is the most common form of CMT.
One of the reasons we have confidence in that success is due to another company collaboration with Ionis Pharmaceuticals, which uses antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs). CMT1A is a little bit different than the other types of CMT since there’s not actually a mutation of a single base but rather a duplication of the gene, so that you have excessive levels of PMP22.The work published with Ionis showed that if you use antisense oligonucleotides to suppress PMP22, you see in two different models of CMT1A a fairly dramatic improvement in the myelination. We are continuing to work with Ionis to try to perfect and refine and make more potent antisense oligonucleotides.
This success also made us realize that you can use a related technology known as RNA interference, or RNAi, to accomplish the same goal, that is, to reduce PMP22. In collaboration with Drs. Kleopa and Svaren and with Dr. Gray at UT Southwestern, we’ve just initiated a project that’s targeting the same technology used for CMT1X and 4C but that’s now targeting a model of CMT1A.
This is a three-part project where we continue to try to address the challenges that Dr. Kleopa mentioned, which is to optimize the delivery to Schwann cells, while developing and optimizing the RNA interference for PMP22, and then also trying to make this system as safe as possible by targeting this suppression to Schwann cells rather than other cell types.
Our efforts also include an exciting extension to the relatively new technology that many people have read about, which is sometimes referred to as genome editing, or CRISPR- Cas9. Many people have read articles about this and it has generated a lot of excitement in the field because this is actually a way to take mutations and actually fix them, so you really can fix the source of the disease.
This new technology is being applied and has entered clinical trials for some types of diseases, particularly for those in the blood stream where you can replace blood-generating cells relatively easily.
The extension of CRISPR-Cas9 to diseases affecting the nervous system will probably take some more time to do all the safety studies and refine the system. But we are really pleased to announce that we are partnering with one of the leading genome editing groups that has focused on axonal forms of CMT, 2A, 2E, and 2F. And we are also collaborating with a company called Toolgen which has developed an approach for CMT1A and has published some positive results.
While this technology may be a few years behind gene replacement therapy, there is a lot of excitement in this area and ultimately this will become a technology that will really spur development of novel therapies for CMT.
All these approaches depend on having good measures that can be used in clinical trials. When we talk to companies, they want to know how they can plan a clinical trial in a way that they’ll get a definitive answer relatively soon. And this has been a challenge for a slowly progressive disease like CMT. But we took this challenge seriously and we supported a number of initiatives.
Some of them have developed within the context of Inherited Neuropathy Consortium, which is partially supported by the CMTA. And there’s also been direct funding of CMTA of some of these efforts as well.
Looking at muscle MRI has turned out to be one of the most sensitive measures of progression in CMT. We are also looking at proteins in blood samples that can be used to measure neuropathy. We’ve used skin biopsies to develop other methods. There’s been a lot of work in CMT evaluation score development. And we’re also investing in wearable devices that can be used in the clinic or even at home to assess balance and movement.
The coordinated use of all of these biomarkers and outcome measures is such that we can hopefully provide companies and investors with relatively quick assessments of whether a clinical trial will be effective. And this is really crucial for those entities to be able to actually provide investment in these new technologies. Progress in this area is just as important as development of the gene therapy itself.
We covered a lot of ground in a few minutes here so let’s just take a minute to share with you how all the pieces of this puzzle fit together.
First, we learned there are two major types of gene defect: what we call “loss of function” where the gene stops working, or what is called a “toxic gain of function” where the gene starts doing something toxic to the body.
And there are three major technologies in gene therapy. Gene replacement, where you take a virus (AAV) and send a replacement gene; gene silencing, where you use technologies like RNA interference (RNAi) to interfere with the protein production; and gene editing, also known as CRISPR-Cas9.
What you see on this chart is how all the CMTA-funded projects and CMTA partners we discussed today map onto this matrix, and how the strategy we launched last year has already brought in great partners and projects across this spectrum, with more to come in the near future.
It’s also very important to be able to deliver the therapy to the right cell. For neurons (CMT type 2s), there is general optimism there because it’s been done before in SMA, for example.
But for Schwann cells (CMT types 1, X and 4), it’s a whole different challenge because you have to deliver therapy to the millions of Schwann cells which are along your nerves. So that’s why we launched this very important collaboration with Drs. Kleopa, Gray and Svaren to optimize delivery to the Schwann cells.
And finally, you have to deliver this to humans and run efficient clinical trials. This is why biomarkers are so important, and thanks to recent advances the scientists think that we can run clinical trials with fewer than a hundred patients in less than a year.
We’ve covered a lot of ground but this is not random, we are very strategic and thoughtful about where we invest and where we spend your investment.
We’re not done—there is a lot of work to left to do. And that’s why it’s important to continue support the STAR program. There are five key reasons that we ourselves support STAR.
The first one is that it is an incredibly strong program. It is recognized as the leading CMT research program. Top researchers and top companies are now calling us to work with us, and nothing could be more exciting.
We take very good care of our financials. We keep our overhead very low; 15 percent or less is our goal, and we’ve achieved that in the past two years. Most nonprofits tend to spend twice as much in overhead. Part of the reason for that, by the way, is thanks to you: because most of our resources come from the community, we don’t spend time chasing government money, big foundation grants, or running fancy fundraising events. That keeps us very efficient and very focused.
And we are recognized for this. If you look at all the independent evaluation agencies like Charity Navigator, we get very high ratings.
The other point, which is very unique to the CMTA, is that the board members—the people who actually make decisions—are also very invested themselves Over 20 percent of our resources and funding comes directly from board members, which means that the people in charge are voting with their own dollars. They put their money where their mouth is.
Finally, our strategy is based on partnerships, and our partners spend at least 10 times more money than we do. So, when you support STAR, your money gets multiplied by a big factor through the involvement of our partners.
We have all come into this for our own reasons and our involvement is very personal, but at the end we all have a role to play. Please get involved and be part of this incredible movement. At the end, this is your program, for you, and by you.
We have wonderful branch events and patient/family conferences around the country.
It’s really important to be part of the CMTA Center of Excellence network and to register with the INC. It will help our research and it will help you.
Because we have more partners, we have launched the Patients as Partners initiative, so you can be involved with companies.
There’s a lot going on, so please sign up for eNews and stay informed!
And remember the three Ws: you can help with work, with wealth and or with wisdom.
A big thank you to everybody. Remember: STAR is all because of you and everybody in the whole CMT community. We’re very proud of where we’re at today, but there’s a lot left to do and we need your involvement and support now more than ever before.
Tremors are fairly common in people with CMT, and can intensify when the person is nervous, cold or tired. CMT expert neurologist, Dr Richard Lewis writes, “Clinically, when someone has CMT and a tremor, they sometimes call this Roussy-Levy Syndrome. Tremors are thought to occur because of decreased sensory input to the brain about where fingers are in space (pseudoathetosis) so that fingers (and sometimes legs or trunks) have tremor. Please consult your neurologist to understand if your tremors are CMT-related. “
Genetic counselor Shawna Feely adds, ” It is possible for only one person to have a tremor, despite everyone having the same type of CMT, because of CMT’s variability of symptoms. If CMT is the cause of your tremor, it can still be treated with medications that help with other forms of tremor (Parkinson medications for tremor).
The severity of symptoms of people in the same family with the same type of CMT can vary greatly from one person to the next. The Inherited Neuropathies Consortium (INC), which is part of the National Institutes of Health’s Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN) is trying to understand why this is by doing a genetic modifier study. They collect samples of DNA from people with CMT. They can screen the DNA through a process called GWAS to look for other genes that may contribute to more or less severe symptoms. This may lead to a better understanding and treatment of CMT in all its forms. If you are interested in participating, you should contact a CMTA Center of Excellence, participating in the INC. https://www.cmtausa.org/living-with-cmt/find-help/cmta-centers-of-excellence/ “
If you have not yet registered online with the Inherited Neuropathies Consortium (INC) Patient Registry, where CMT expertneurologist and researcher, Dr. Shy and colleagues continue working to research the many unknowns in CMT, here is the link: https://www.rarediseasesnetwork.org/cms/inc
It is easy to join, and free, and there are studies that come up periodically where they need feedback from the patient community.
I have an ulcer on my foot that will not heal. Is this typical of CMT?
Dr. Joseph Gregory Stilwell, DPM writes:
Yes,ulcers can be quite common with CMT. Oftentimes because a bone is prominent, and taking excess pressure- irritation occurs. Then, with decreased sensation and other changes in the skin along with possible diminished circulation, an ulcer can develop. Sounds like you may need referral to a specialty wound care program (usually run by your local hospital). Here, they can do blood work to assess for signs of infection and other markers that show up in blood screens.
Have you had wound cultures, specialized diagnostic imaging (usually an MRI), or had a consult with a surgeon who could conceivably debride (the removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects) the wound and probably some of the underlying bone? There are many specialized wound dressings and even a “wound vac” that helps to pull drainage from the wound so it can begin to dry up and heal.
These types of ulcers can get out of control rather quickly and possibly result in hospitalization, need for IV antibiotics, and even radical surgery. So, please be proactive about finding your local wound care specialists.
It was in the winter of 2012 that we met the elderly man sitting in a bulky hospital-style wheelchair, covered from shoulder to toe with a plush blanket. Jeana Sweeney and I had flown to Seattle, WA to speak at a local CMTA branch meeting. We had just begun the presentation when a bright and lively young woman entered, pushing an old man to the front of a fully-packed room.
He put “Jim” on his nametag. Jim listened intently to our talk, not missing a beat. He even asked a few questions with his quivering, shallow voice, which betrayed an inability to completely catch his breath while speaking. He must have been around 90 years old, 100 even! And, he was obviously affected by decades of living in a body with CMT, but he forged onward.
At the end of the meeting, once Jeana had finished her pep talk about CMT awareness and fundraising, a few people hung out to ask questions, socialize and munch on home-baked sweets! While I was speaking to the branch leader, stuffing brownies into my mouth, I spied Jeana who was making a most definite beeline for Jim and his caretaker. Hmmmmmmmmmm…
45 minutes had passed and I was more than ready to hit the road and make our way back to the airport. Most people had left, but Jeana was still chatting away with Jim and his caretaker. As I was packing up my stuff, I overheard Jeana ask, “Have you ever thought about getting involved or giving to the CMTA?”
“OMG, really?” I thought as I struggled with the zipper on the projector pouch. “Really? Tell me she didn’t. Did she just ask that elderly man we do not even know for money? Seriously, we have to have some boundaries here. She’s great at fundraising and all, but taking advantage of the elderly is not right!” I made a mental note to talk to her as soon as we were out of earshot.
On the way back to the airport, I expressed my concern. Jeana just started laughing. “You only heard like one tiny part of our conversation, Elizabeth. And I was not taking advantage of anyone! I can’t believe you would even think that of me!” she added with a serious scowl.
Long story short, Jim or James Lea is known for his invention of the Therm-a-Rest mattress. If you do any outdoor activity or camping, you’ve probably heard of Therm-a-Rest! Throughout the conversation, he willingly mentioned his philanthropic activities and admitted that he wanted to help people with CMT. Having been diagnosed with CMT early on in his life, he wanted to give back to a cause close to his heart. But first, he had to do some homework.
He asked Jeana if she would be willing to go back to Seattle and spend a couple of days with him to talk about the CMTA, its mission, and financials. More than anything, he wanted to get to know Jeana better, to understand her values, her work, and her purpose.
Jeana ended up spending 3 full days with James, from 9am-7pm with James, who was still very busy with his various business ventures. Later, I called James and interviewed him. Here is the article I wrote for the CMTA Report:
James Lea is one of the original founders of Cascade Designs and the developer of Therm-a-Rest, the world’s first self-inflating camping mattress. Born in Tacoma, Washington, on October 22, 1920, this spritely nonagenarian shows few signs of slowing down any time soon. When asked what he does in his free time, Jim was quick to respond, “What free time? I am very busy!” When he is not working in his office, he tries to remain as active as possible. He enjoys being on the lake and working on boats, always trying to improve their function. Jim also put a lot of emphasis on taking care of himself by eating right and maintaining good lifestyle habits. Once in a while, he might even play his ukulele, which is increasingly difficult due to his CMT. Yes, Jim Lea has CMT, as did his siblings, father, and grandfather, who got around using two canes.
Jim was in his thirties when he first noticed signs of the disorder, “When I walked, it felt as though my socks were bunching up under my feet.” It was not until he was in his late 50s that neurologists from the University of Washington officially diagnosed him with Charcot-Marie-Tooth. As a successful engineer and businessman, Jim has managed his CMT over the years. “Truthfully, I just try to ignore it, work around my difficulties, go ahead with my day and do the best that I can, every day.”
Forever inquisitive, Jim has also done quite a bit of research on CMT to better understand treatments, therapies, and current CMT research. Choosing to accept his CMT as an undeniable presence in his life, Jim never shied away from telling others about the heritable disorder passed on from generation to generation in his family. In fact, just last year at his 90th birthday party, he took it upon himself to spread awareness of CMT by passing out brochures and educating his guests about the disorder. How I admire James Lea and his positive, upbeat attitude! Despite the fact that CMT is affecting his breathing, his hands, his feet, and body, never once did I hear him complain or lament about his struggles. Moreover, encouraged by recent progress in the CMTA’s STAR initiative, he does hope that treatments are forthcoming for our younger generations.
His message to younger people with the disorder is to “stay strong, accept the condition, and find alternative ways to achieve your goals and dreams.” Not missing a beat, Jim also hopes that scientists will hurry up and find a way to create … another Jim Lea, at 65, who could do some of the many things he still wants to do in this lifetime! At 91 years old, Jim Lea is one of the most positive and upbeat souls I have ever had the opportunity to meet. His never-give-up attitude, inquisitive mind, and perseverance are most admirable, making him the legend and role-model he is today.
Jeana passed all his tests with flying colors, as did the CMTA. Jeana and Jim created a true friendship which grew and blossomed right up until the day he passed on December 20, 2016. When talking on the phone was no longer possible due to hearing loss, Jeana sent him cards and letters, always making sure to include one of her daughter Rylee’s drawings.
James Lea gave a large part of his estate to the CMTA after his passing as he not only believed in the work of the CMTA but also in one of the Association’s most well-known, hardworking and genuinely caring CMT advocates – Jeana Sweeney. Jim will remain in our hearts forever, and his investments into the CMTA will help many for a very, very long time.
Top Twelve Reasons I’m Talking About CMT during Awareness Month
12) Confused Faces-When I tell people my son has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, I get looks like this:
Let’s stop the nonsense. I’m looking for reactions of recognition, like Dr. House’s below:
11) Dentures? Besides having had too many cavities, crowns, and pulled teeth, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my choppers. Yohan has beautiful teeth and healthy gums, too. Dr. Howard Henry Tooth discovered this progressive neuromuscular disease at just about the same time as the French neurologists, Dr. Charcot, and his disciple, Pierre Marie. So now we are stuck with Charcot-Marie-Tooth or CMT.
10. Eponyms. Jean-Marie Charcot is known as the father of modern neurology. And, he made sure no one would ever forget his legacy. Why? He was generous enough to share his last name with a host of other diseases he unraveled:
I stop my complaining when I remember that the name COULD have been definitely much worse. Why? One of my good doctor friends, a most reliable source, explained that Dr. Nikolaus Friedreich, as in the neuromuscular disease Friedrich’s Ataxia, also wanted credit for the discovery of CMT, but the message of his discovery did not reach the authorities in time….something to do with an unannounced closing of government offices. So the Grand Poo-Bahs did not receive the important Carrion Pigeon or telegraph messages. Bummer for Nikolaus and hurrah for people with CMT everywhere! We don’t have Charcot-Marie-Tooth Freiderich disease (CMTF), but rather just CMT.
Thank God for small miracles.
8. Let everyone know that CMT does not stand for:
Country Music Television
Childen’s Musical Theater
Certified Massage Therapist
7. Pronunciation: Give others ways to remember the name, pronounce like:
6. . Shark’s Teeth Convention? Once, I wanted to book a large room for a CMTA conference. The short discussion went something like this: “Hi. I need to book a meeting room for the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association.”. “Okay, let me see. What is the date of your Shark Tooth meeting?
Enough said. Ugh.
5. Rent a Costume or Let Your Pets Do The Dirty Work!
If you feel awkward about starting the CMT discussion, you and your animals can dress up like a shark – it’s fun and you are bound to get s few questions! Or, just paint your horse with non-toxic paint. People will ask…..trust me.
4. Braces – Tell people you wear braces and when they look at your mouth, lift up your pant leg and flash them with your one-of-a-kind ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs).
Wow your friends with your knowledge of medical jargon. Use CMT-related words like:
peripheral neuropathy, autosomal dominant, hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, pes cavus, myelin, axons, exome sequencing, orthosis, etc……
Be the expert on questions they can’t answer. Teach a friend and make good use of your never-ending CMT knowledge!
1) Acceptance-Whatever you do, talk about your CMT. Share your experiences with people who might not know about CMT. Most people want to know and CMT Awareness Month provides a platform to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this progressive neuromuscular disease, its symptoms, its effects. Knowledge is power. Go forth and tell someone!
The Cycle (and Walk!) 4 CMT event at the Old Lantern in Charlotte, VT on Sunday, August 26 will be upon us before you know it! Please act now to reserve your spot to cycle, walk and/or attend the unforgettable after-party!
Whether you are attending the event in person or participating virtually, here are your top 4 action items for you to complete right now:
The Cycle (and Walk or Roll!) 4 CMT event is so much more than a bike ride or walk around Charlotte, VT. It is a way to give hope to families and their children all around the world for a medicinal treatment to stop the progression of CMT.
I asked our friend Riley Ashe from Vermont, who never misses the event, to talk about what this event means to him. Here is what he said (get Kleenex out before pressing play):
My brother George’s heartfelt thoughts (grab yet another kleenex):
Rumor has it that we throw the best after-party of any non-profit event for miles around! Riders, walkers and party attendees are going to have a blast again this year.
After the morning activities, plan to relax in the beautiful setting at the Old Lantern in Charlotte, VT.
Quench your thirst with VT brewed beer, enjoy delicious food, including appetizers and a fully catered menu and bid on epic silent auction items provided by our supporters.
Rock out to the lively tunes of our favorite band, Leno, Cheney and Young, mingle with family, friends and hear about exciting CMT research updates from our internationally acclaimed CMT experts, Drs. Michael Shy and Steven Scherer.
If you cannot make it this year – you can still participate by doing a VIRTUAL CYCLE or WALK or ROLL. It’s easy! Register: http://www.cycle4cmt.com. Here is some of the cool swag you’ll receive after you’ve reached your fundraising goal.
If you do a virtual event, send me pictures of your adventure! I need to brag about you! xoxo
Help us break the silence…get the word out about CMT!