Cancer Journey Part 2

Cancer Journey part 2

Yawn, stretch, ok left vector clear, right vector clear, now where was I? Oh yeah, I had just underwent 5 ½ weeks of radiation therapy at maximum cord dose plus a 500 boost! I went to radiation therapy every day on my lunch hour. I was actually serving on active duty in support of the Army Reserve in Decatur, GA. At the time, I had minimal side effects from the actual radiation. I experienced dry skin around my neck and an increase in saliva production, but overall not bad.

As you’ll recall, I’m a single dad dealing with a big curve ball that was just thrown my way. Dating or getting involved in a relationship was the last thing on my mind. Obviously life had other plans. I grew fond of one my radiation therapists. I started looking forward to my treatments just to see her. She was easy to talk with and was always in a jovial mood. We would cut up and make jokes about her strapping me down to the table every day.  

After a short courtship, she and I married.  We both had career aspirations that would have us relocating from Georgia to the Midwest. After all, she was from Wisconsin and I wanted to teach at Fort McCoy, WI. I landed a full time Army Reserve Technician position in Rosemont, IL and she took a radiation therapy job in Park Ridge, IL. Here we go, another chapter unfolding in my life.

Life was busy with of us starting new jobs and getting settled in to our fixer-upper rental property. Within our first year of marriage we became pregnant and in October of 2000, we had a son, Justin. That gave us two boys living with us with a 13 year age difference between them. This made life very interesting and kept us busy. I was so busy that I didn’t notice that my right arm was having issues. I’m a lefty by default, but I’ve always had full functionality of both my arms.

In 2002, I started experiencing weakness in my arm. I would drop things and I had trouble lifting my arm over my head. I consulted with my neurosurgeon and after more X-rays and MRIs, he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. The two surgeons collaborated and decided that they needed to perform a surgery together to fix what was causing my problem. When I had my first surgery to remove the tumor from my spinal cord, the surgeon broke off the back part off my spine called the spinal process and removed vertebra bone to get access to my spinal cord. This created a very weak and unstable area in my neck. Due to my active lifestyle, the wear and tear on my cervical spine caused it to bend in an unnatural manner, my c-spine started looking like an s-spine!  

Spinal fusion! Some days you have your ups and downs and other days you just get screwed! Screwed, that’s precisely what they did. They removed the damaged vertebra, added cadaver bone, and screwed a titanium plate to the my spine to eliminate the additional curvature that was pressing on my spinal cord. Before the surgery, I couldn’t hold my right arm up in the air without it falling down on its own. I had no control of the arm, but I did have complete sensation.  

30 hours after walking in for surgery, I walked out and I had full functionality of my arm again! After a few short weeks of wearing a neck brace, I was back in trenches and able to run again. Running has always been an outlet for me to de-stress.   

Interested in hearing more? Stay tuned! 17 more years of living with cancer will unfold! The journey continues…………

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