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Back on Track

Taylor Lohan had every reason to be excited about cross-country season her sophomore year.

In her fourth year on the varsity team at Canton High School, she was winning meets, running the four-kilometer race. Then suddenly, the pain began.

“It was like my feet were falling asleep,” says the 17-year-old incoming senior. “From my toes, even up into my legs, everything would go numb and feel really heavy. And then my feet would start to burn.”

A short season

After just four meets, the runner with so much promise had to sit on the sidelines, cheering on her teammates with pride, while she dealt with the disappointment of not being able to run with them.

“It was just impossible to run and that was so hard,” Taylor says, sitting in her bedroom decorated with medals and her race number tags from track meets and cross country events. “Not being able to do something that I loved was even worse than the pain in my feet.”

Her parents, concerned about what might be causing Taylor’s sudden problems took her to doctors in several states. Taylor’s mother describes visits to foot doctors, orthopedic specialists and even a four-day diagnostic stay at the Mayo Clinic In Rochester.

“We had MRIs, checked her veins, her heart, her nerves and her blood flow, and no one could figure it out,” says Leanne Lohan, sitting next to her daughter. “All those appointments and we still didn’t have any answers.”

Taylor wasn’t willing to give up on her dream. While she didn’t know what was causing her problems with her feet and legs, doctors had confirmed that she was not in any physical danger as she tried to run. With her family’s support, she tried once again to train for track season that spring and cross-country the following fall, but again was often sidelined by burning pain in her feet.

“Most of the doctors said that this was just something I would have to live with and said I should end my running career,” Taylor says quietly with a pained look on her face. “I just wasn’t ready to give up.”

Help at hand

The answer to Taylor’s problem came from close to home. Throughout the two years that she had struggled with the numbness and pain in her feet, Kristin Goodroad, a physical therapist at the rehabilitation department at Canton-Inwood Medical Center would work with her and try new things.

Shortly before track season her junior year, the local physical therapist suggested a different treatment. A physical therapy student at the Canton clinic had told Goodroad about her own problems with scar tissue in her legs and feet. The former college athlete had similar symptoms caused by damage from overuse of her legs muscles.

The scar tissue, which wouldn’t show up on any scans or testing, could be broken down with deep tissue massage. Taylor began the therapy, which was often quite painful, but soon began to feel positive results.

Since it was close to home, she could easily slip out for physical therapy appointments, going during her study hall periods. Every session seemed to lessen the pain and make the tingling and numbness recede a little further.

“The pain is still there, but it’s tolerable,” Taylor said, rubbing her leg as she spoke. “It’s ten times better than it was before. It means I could finish races.”

Back on track

Last spring, Taylor competed in three relays that qualified for the state track meet. As she ran the anchor position in her last race of the day, her mom was relieved to see her daughter run without collapsing afterward in pain.

“It’s been a bumpy road, but we’re so proud of her for sticking with it,” Leanne says. “And we can’t thank the physical therapists enough for this gift.”

Taylor was voted team captain last year and in the coming year for the track and cross-country teams. This summer she’ll resume the deep tissue massage to prepare her for the long-distance training of cross-country, a sport she hasn’t been able to compete in for two seasons.

As she runs a quick practice lap on the school track, Taylor says she’s so grateful to have physical therapists who cared enough to never give up on her. Going into her senior year, she hopes to be running again, this time with a smile on her face.

“Running is who I am,” says Taylor. “I get to have another chance to do it.”

Posted Date: August 2012