Health update August 2021

News on my health continues to be surprisingly good. My leg strength continues to show mild but consistent improvements across multiple metrics, for reasons we cannot explain. The physical therapist confirmed this at my most recent ALS clinic visit in July, noticing stronger muscles in parts of my legs from just three months prior.  I’ve been able to stay active – in June I played golf for 4 straight days without much tiredness, and now that the college fitness center has reopened I’m lifting weights and using the bike machine and treadmill. I’m comfortably lifting/cycling/walking at the same or better levels than I could 18 months ago. 

I recently took a business trip up to DC, and managed by myself just fine for four days, so I’m still self-sufficient as a traveler.  Lugging baggage in and out of hotels is a little trickier than when I had full leg strength but can be done with a little planning.  

As before, I’m trying not to get too excited about the improved leg strength, because I know how capricious this disease is.  But whether this is a short term reprieve or a long term trend, it’s great news no matter how you slice it, and I’m very, very happy about it.  

As for the ongoing question of re-diagnosis, the verdict from the neurologist is that for now we continue to treat this as a slow and unusual case of ALS. But I continue to exhibit symptoms that don’t match up well with ALS, and if these anomalies keep stacking up, the odds increase that this might be an ALS mimic. As I’ve written before, only time will tell.  It may take years before we know.  Years of uncertainty is fine with me.

Meanwhile, I am heading back to full time teaching at Davidson College in August with confidence that I can handle the work load, and hopeful that I can teach to retirement. I’m feeling good about continuing to be able to travel to conferences and conduct fieldwork (within reason), and maintain an active research agenda. And enjoy life with friends and family as much as I can!

Author: Ken Menkhaus

Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Specialist on Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Interests include development, statebuilding, informal governance systems, peace and conflict studies, and political Islam. I also teach on philanthropy and the non-profit sector.

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