(SFGate) He beat cancer, but the treatment cost him most of his teeth. He can't feel his fingers because of another disease. It feels like his fingernails are being pushed off his body.
Life has become a different reality for Lance Mackey, a man at the height of his sport just five years ago who today has trouble doing even the most basic things required of a dog musher.
A scruffy Alaska character who looks much older than his 44 years, Mackey overcame throat cancer to win four straight Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races. But another set of health problems may make this year's thousand-mile race to Nome the last for Mackey.
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Mackey suffers from Raynaud's syndrome, which limits circulation to the hands and feet.
He can't use his swollen and blackened fingers in cold weather. He can't manipulate the stiff digits enough to do the simple tasks a musher must, like putting booties on his dog's paws to protect them from the elements. His brother and fellow musher, Jason Mackey, who has his own team, has agreed to stay with Lance at the back of the pack to help with his dogs.
It's a life-changing blow for a man who knows no other lifestyle.