RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Wake County woman with a passion for racing doesn’t let anything stand in her way – not even a diagnosis with a debilitating disease.
As she whizzes by in her recumbent trike, you can sometimes catch a triumphant smile. For Andrea Lytle Peet, there’s just something thrilling about pushing her body to the limit. It’s a feeling she learned to love years ago when she started racing.
A simple way to get in shape turned into a passion, but in 2014, less than a year after finishing several triathlons and a Half Ironman, her hamstrings felt weak and she started tripping.
She was diagnosed with ALS.
“It’s a degenerative disease of the nerves that allow us to move our muscles,” explained Dr. Richard Bedlack, the director of the Duke ALS Clinic. “As these nerves gradually die,a person becomes disconnected from their muscles. They lose the ability to walk, to use their arms, to feed themselves, to dress themselves, to speak, to swallow, and eventually to breathe.”
Peet was just 33 years old when she learned she had ALS. Since then, the illness has changed her voice and her body. It has not changed her spirit. Even before doctors confirmed the devastating diagnosis, Andrea decided to race again.
“I needed to do it before my body deteriorated, so I signed up for another triathlon,” she said.
Most people with ALS live between two and five years after they’re diagnosed.
“Some people become not only physically, but mentally devastated by it and retreat into a corner and finish out their life in the quiet seclusion of their home,” said Bedlack. “Other people become almost stronger inside as a result of the disease and Andrea is an example of that.”
Even though her body limits her much more than it used to, she keeps racing. Recently she set a personal record in the Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill (RDC) Marathon, but even more importantly, her nonprofit Team Drea Foundation and her doctor, Richard Bedlack and the Duke ALS Clinic, received funding raised by the race. It will go toward research, and Peet hopes, an eventual cure.
“I hope at some point no one, no one else has to go through this,” she said.