By guest blogger, Mike Judge
On August 29, 2013, I was diagnosed with cancer. Ewing’s sarcoma to be exact. What I thought was just a strained triceps ended up being cancer. I didn’t think that it was even possible to have a primary cancer in an extremity. Sarcoma? I had never heard that word in my life until I walked into the orthopedic surgeon’s office on July 26, 2013.
I complained of pain that got worse over my freshman year of college at Penn State and noticed a lump in my triceps muscle towards the end of the year. Was it debilitating? Not at all. But it just wouldn’t go away with ice, rest, and Advil like most strained muscles would. I was having such a great summer and it ended on the day of that appointment. What followed was a month of tests and finally a diagnosis. It went from, “it may or may not be a tumor,” to “its a tumor, but it might not be malignant,” to “its malignant, but were not sure what it is,” to “its Ewing’s sarcoma, but it’s localized.” The tumor was 7 cm in diameter and it grew out of my right humerus. The only good news I heard that month was that it was localized to my arm. Like most people who unfortunately get this disease, I’m just 19 years old! And there is nothing I could have done to prevent getting it. My life has changed from being focused on school and my future goals, to surviving this disease. At 19 years old I had to make decisions that most people never have to make. The chemo drugs for Ewing’s sarcoma are very harsh and have many side effects. Some are long term such as infertility and heart damage. I decided to freeze my sperm because I hope to have a family someday. My heart needed to be strong enough in order to get the full chemo treatment and luckily for me it was. I also needed to decide where I would get my treatment. I chose the University of Pennsylvania. It is a wonderful hospital and I would definitely recommend it. The sarcoma team there is great.
I am now finished with my second cycle of chemo. It has gone very fast so far. The tumor has responded well to the chemo. My arm feels so much softer than before and it doesn’t hurt as much. Before starting treatment I was told by everyone that there would be bad days and good days. I have seen many more good days than bad days so far and I have taken advantage of these days. I have tried to keep everything as normal as possible for myself. I have had friends over the house. I go out and do things when I feel up for it. I even played basketball after my first cycle of treatment! I was really anxious about losing my hair because I thought I would look bad, but I actually don’t look bad at all. This cycle took me a little bit longer to recover from, but I was able to enjoy a few days out. I am very optimistic about my treatment. I have been mostly positive, but I do have days where I feel discouraged from the bad side effects of the treatment. When I feel this way, the support from my family and friends help me think positively.
The plan going forward with my treatment right now is that I will have surgery in the beginning of December (my birthday), followed by three more months of chemotherapy. So as long as everything goes according to plan I should be finished by April.
One year from now I hope to be back at school continuing my degree in Computer Science at Penn State. I hope to be back playing basketball with my friends and being an active, healthy kid. You can follow my progress with my treatment by visiting my blog at thebiggestgame.blogspot.com.