Lickteig Likes His Routine

By CATHY LICKTEIG For The Tribune | Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some people see normalcy, the routine everyday way of life, in a negative hue. For better or worse, the workaday life is portrayed as boring. Not so for 53-year-old Bismarcker Tim Lickteig, who will run in today’s Boston Marathon.

After undergoing two agonizing treatment regimens to overcome hepatitis C, Tim was happy to return to the routine early last year.

“It’s remarkable how quickly I began to feel better once I was able to stop filling my body with the (treatment) toxins,” Tim said.

Tim returned to the gym to build his stamina. As he got stronger, he increased his work load at Eide Ford. Within a couple of months his energy and mental acuity were back.

Tim and his wife, Marcy, put their lives back together, too. Last spring they took a leisurely trip through the Black Hills to Spearfish, S.D. They traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., to visit their son Andy, then 20, who was a student at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.

Tim and Marcy also soaked up the Arizona sun and played golf. It had been more than two years since Tim had picked up a club. He felt great.

After returning home, Tim continued his conditioning and training. He’d set a mind-boggling goal: to run the 2010 Bismarck Marathon in September, just seven months after his final injections of powerful medications.

Tim was at the gym at 5 a.m. stretching and doing strength training, he ran outside in good weather and put miles on the treadmill when he had to be inside.

Despite this demanding, 90 minute daily training regimen, Tim couldn’t always block out the nagging fear that maybe the hepatitis C would come back like it did the first time.

He worried that his ruined health and shattered emotions would avail nothing. He feared the pain and expense his family had experienced would be for naught. Would his name be added to the long list of people waiting for a new liver? Would he even live that long? Tim and Marcy turned to others facing similar trials for help.

“The support group was a lifeline,” Tim said. “Marcy and I learned about coping and patience and building resilience. We left each monthly meeting with a little more confidence that we could handle this.”

On August 20, 2010 – six months to the day after his final injection – Tim got the news. Blood tests indicated that there were no signs of the hepatitis C virus. None.

Tim was jubilant, relieved that this horrible treatment, which twice came close to destroying his life, had saved it.

“I was overcome with gratitude and relief,” he said.

Tim didn’t celebrate for long. Free of that burden, Tim redoubled his preparation for the Bismarck Marathon, which loomed just a month away.

The night before the race it snowed. At race time on Sept. 18, the temperature was a chilly 35 degrees.

The start was brutal for Tim, but as the temperatures improved, so his performance. A little over five hours later, completely drained and nursing a muscle spasm in his thigh, Tim finished.

“It took a few minutes to realize that I’d made it all the way to the end. It was the same feeling I had when I was skydiving – floating in an out-of-body experience,” Tim recalled.

A few months after the Bismarck Marathon, there was more to celebrate. Tim’s long-held dream of running the Boston Marathon came true. He was selected to run at Boston as a member of the American Liver Foundation’s Run for Research Team.

Tim will be one of 200 ALF runners from across the United States at the starting line for the 115th Boston Marathon. All 200 have stared down hepatitis and other diseases of the liver. Their goal is to call attention to the work of the Liver Foundation and to raise funds for research.

Upon learning of his invitation to Boston, Tim quickly got to work. He met with a trainer who helped him map out a six-month plan to prepare for the 26.2-mile race.

“I want to do well, try to finish in four hours. I don’t want to let down my family, friends and the Liver Foundation,” Tim said.

Yet, in the midst of the celebrations and excitement, Tim was still not sure of his recovery.

Back in February of 2010, when Dr. Kent Martin reported that there were no more hepatitis C cells, he told Tim to return in a year for another blood test.

“If there are no cells, then we can be all but certain that you beat this disease,” Martin said.

Two months ago the results came back from two independent laboratories: No trace of the hepatitis C cells.

“There’s a 99 percent chance that this disease will not return,” Martin said. “Even though Tim’s liver is permanently damaged from the hepatitis, it won’t get any worse. And he will be able to live a full life, and run more marathons.”

When Tim steps across the starting line in the Boston Marathon today, he will have already won. The finish line will be the beginning of Tim’s new life.

Editor’s note: Tim Lickteig of Bismarck will be among those at the starting line for today’s Boston Marathon. Cathy Lickteig, who offers an inside view of Tim’s agonizing fight against hepatitis C, is his older sister. She resides in Camden, Maine and plans to meet meet her brother at the finish line today. This story concludes a three-part series.