Pleasanton couple's dog a winning wiener

"In the seven years they have been together, Patrick Major has seen Sammy Davis transform from a playful pet to one of the fastest dachshund racers in the state. Even though he stands only about 6 inches tall, Sammy can pump his stubby little legs and leap through the air to catch Frisbees nearly as big as he is. And, this pooch was a doggie pinup in the International Disc Dog calendar three years running." Read More Here

header image

Chess Scores

Scores will be updated soon.

Scrabble Scores

Scores will be updated soon.

Patrick Major and Bethany Meloche Walk for Charcot Marie-Tooth (CMT)

By Joe Rodriguez

POSTED:   08/26/2013 08:24:00 AM PDT
UPDATED:   08/26/2013 08:24:36 AM PDT


MOUNTAIN VIEW–On bruised knees and legs held up with carbon fiber braces, Bethany Meloche started walking gingerly around and around a city park on Sunday morning. Even though she waddled like a penguin, she was the picture of tireless bravery in a fight against a crippling disease most people have never heard about.

“I’m a little sore, in some pain,” she said a little into the walk at Cuesta Park.

A senior at UC Berkeley, Meloche suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT. It has nothing to do with teeth. The neurological disorder has weakened or wrecked the nerve and muscular systems in her hands, hip, knees and feet. patkissingsammyFor her, every step on the smooth path at the pretty park was something like descending a steep staircase without a handrail.

Worse, an accident four days before nearly derailed the walk-a-thon she had planned for months. While slowly crossing a busy street in downtown Mountain View, a man in a hurry stepped on the back of her shoe. Meloche fell hard. Blood streamed from her knee. Fellow pedestrians helped her up and brought her bandages and even lemonade. Luckily, nothing was torn or broken.

“I never dreamed we would see this day,” said her mother, Renee Meloche.

CMT is an unpredictable, mostly inherited disorder with a wide range of effects among its 2.5 million victims around the world. Meloche’s father had a mild case, so they thought hers would be the same. Even so, as a young child in Ann Arbor, Mich., Meloche avoided jungle gyms and running sports. She stayed close to her parents on walks. But at age 12 the disease took a vicious turn.

“I was sitting on the floor with my friends and felt a sharp pain shoot through my arms.”

Medical tests confirmed her more serious affliction, which gradually spread to her hips, legs and feet. Early in high school, during a rehearsal for a play, she fell and couldn’t get up easily.

“I was trying and trying and finally managed to get up,” she said. “As you can imagine, that was embarrassing for a teenager.”

She dropped out of high school and enrolled at a community college, where she could attend classes only two days a week instead of five. Less travel time meant less pain. She was only 15.


About three dozen people joined Meloche’s walk-a-thon Sunday. Her goal was seven miles and $7,000 in donations. Dr. John Day, who runs the CMT clinic at Stanford Medical Center, dropped by at the midpoint to check up on Meloche and meet other patients.

“I’m more concerned about her feet, but I don’t want to be a downer and end her walk,” the doctor said before joining Meloche. They chatted for two laps about the latest in research and general approach to living with the disease. “The balance,” Day told her, “is staying active as much as you can without causing injury.”

A stream of CMT patients, most of whom were meeting each other for the first time, joined Meloche for a few laps and shared their stories.

“I was miserable for 40 years with CMT,” said 48-year-old Patrick Major, of San Ramon. “I lied about it. I hid it.”

He so much wanted to fit in with the other boys that he played high school football without his leg braces on, fearful of being found out and thrown off the team. A bench warmer, he got few chances to play but took advantage of it.

“I got one sack of the quarterback with CMT,” he said as he circled the park behind Meloche. “It was the highlight of my football career.”

He dropped football after that one glorious moment. Today, Major speaks about the disease at CMT Association support groups and events. Because the disease is progressive, patients often don’t know they have it and then are shocked when the diagnosis comes in. That’s how it was for Nina Chan, of San Jose, who also joined Meloche’s walk.

Chan’s mother, Toshik Takahashi, was diagnosed with the disease in her late 70s after a hard fall and painfully slow recuperation. Testing showed that Chan, her sister and Chan’s 15-year-old old daughter, Rachel, had the disease. The girl has had to give up running and volleyball, but she’s adopted golf as her new sport.

“At first it was hard,” Chan said. “I guess you could call it denial. … We’re adjusting more and more every day.”


Meloche gamely marched on, declining to stop and rest. Instead, she ate grapes and drank water while walking arm-and-arm with her boyfriend, Josh Watzman. But on the 14th lap with only three more to go, she fell hard and scraped one knee.

“She didn’t say a word,” Watzman said, “But I could tell by the look on her face.”

Meloche got up and kept walking.

By age 18, she was looking at life in a wheelchair when a therapist recommended major surgery. She agreed, moved to the Bay Area for the operation, and put her education on hold for a year.

The surgeons “essentially destroyed and rebuilt my feet,” she said.

As she recuperated, Meloche looked up Elizabeth Ouelette, a CMT Association state board member whose son has the disease. When Meloche volunteered to help, Ouelette asked if she knew anything about websites and social media.

“She was amazing,” Ouelette said. Meloche soon became the group’s social media director.

As she prepared to resume her education, Meloche decided to throw UC Berkeley, an elite campus, into the mix.

“Berkeley was sort of a pipe dream,” she said. “I never imagined I would get in, to be honest.”

She figures her essay about her personal battle with CMT got her in, not her grade-point average. Here is a key excerpt:

“I’d always been inexplicably different from other kids. I was slower. I never could climb the jungle gym and instinctively knew not to try. What I considered “running” looked more like a drunken penguin hurling itself across the ice,” she wrote.

“I was afraid. There were no guarantees of success. But if these surgeries were successful, I would be able to get so much more out my college experience, both from the classes and extracurricular activities.

Admitted as a junior, Meloche soon discovered that Berkeley is a hilly campus. Everybody told her to bring her wheelchair scooter to get around. Instead, she sold it.

“I don’t think people understand the emotional feelings of going through life in a wheelchair,” she explained. “I wanted to walk to my classes.”

And she does, but there is a price. She can get to class on rebuilt feet, but she’s spent at the end of every day. Between school and CMTA duties, there’s little or no time for the extracurricular hobbies or campus clubs she had hoped to enjoy.

“I don’t have as much energy as a regular person,” she said. “I’m tired all the time.”

Tired and wounded at times, but always determined. With one knee bleeding, Meloche crossed the finish line Sunday in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 47 seconds. Her average time per mile was 28.52 minutes.

“That was my fastest time ever, even in practice.”

And by late afternoon she had raised $8,655 to fight a disease that tries mightily to hold her back but simply can’t.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767.

CMT Donations

See Bethany Meloche’s video pitch to combat Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease at http://youtube/SjmS3aZEiLk.
For more information on CMT got to

Comments are closed.