It seemingly all started with a sneeze.
Jerry set out on a walk to try calming his nervous legs. They’d been restless for some time, and sitting for too long wasn’t comfortable either. His back had also been bothering him, but several trips to the chiropractor hadn’t yielded much progress. He thought a bit of exercise might create a bit of relief for both of these nuisances.
While Jerry walked past a local farm, the moving livestock kicked up a bit of dust. The reaction to sneeze was involuntary, but that’s what started the falling dominoes. Starting at his mid-chest, Jerry felt an electric shiver run down his whole body to his toes. He continued trying to walk, but his legs were going numb and the pain in his back was growing more severe. It was then that his wife drove up to find him on the side of the road. Gina had been worrying about how long he’d been gone, and felt the need to go searching for him.
Jerry was able to get home, and thought he might have had a pinched nerve. The following day was his birthday, although it was difficult to celebrate anything with all of the pain he was suffering. After losing all feeling in his legs, and the back pain growing more intense, they decided they needed to visit the emergency room. That’s when things for their family would drastically change.
Blood tests and x-rays initially determined what looked like a fractured back. Jerry hadn’t fallen or been injured in any way, so this was very confusing to the doctors. After receiving an MRI and a CT scan, the doctors found not only what was wrong with his back, but also several growths on his organs. His T5 vertebrae appeared almost completely disintegrated, and he had golf ball sized lumps on his liver and his adrenal gland.
Jerry’s spinal cord had been compressed severely by the final loss of any remaining strength of his injured vertebrae. Although the cancer would need to be addressed later, the biggest concern now was repairing his back to avoid further spinal cord damage. The following day the spinal surgeon would cut an eight inch incision along his spine. Over the next five hours, the surgeon would install two rods, and eight pins in the T4 and T6 vertebrae to stabilize Jerry’s back. The cancer had metastasized to Jerry’s spine, which caused the damage. Those growths were removed during surgery, and sent off for a biopsy to determine where the cancer originated from.￼
The spinal surgeon confirmed that Jerry would have a long road ahead of him after recovering from the spinal damage. He would need to learn how to walk again, but may not gain the full functionality he had before. Physical therapy at the hospital became a priority to help him achieve mobility, but it hasn’t come as quickly as everyone had hoped. ￼
The cancer was later determined to be stage 4 hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC, or liver cancer. Although it is most likely to be found in someone who drinks heavily, Jerry hadn’t had a drink of alcohol in his life. The cause is still undetermined, but that’s not as important as looking ahead. The cancer is inoperable, so the oncologist has put together a plan to stave off the growth with Lenvatinib, followed by possible immunotherapy.
Had the cancer gone undetected, Jerry wouldn’t have lived another six months. The oncologist believes that with the current plan, Jerry will have years ahead of him. Those are years that he will continue working on regaining his mobility, and years that he will need to continue providing for his family.
Jerry and Gina have been married for 43 years. After having seven children, they decided to invite foster children into their home to spread their love to those who needed it. This experience led to the adoption of four additional children whom may have had difficulty finding families elsewhere. Their son of 8 years old is the youngest of four children still living at home. ￼
Those who know Jerry consider themselves lucky. There aren’t many people who are as positive as he is, or who are as forgiving. He’s got a rich baritone voice, which adds a deep bass to the church choir. He enjoys going golfing when he can, and looks forward to the day when he can swing his clubs again.
The medical expenses from this unexpected tragedy are great, but Jerry’s income will also be severely impacted due to his loss of work. We know there are many that would love to help, but don’t know how. We are using this fundraiser to help support the progress he is making towards his back recovery, and his fight against cancer.￼
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- Margaret &Barry Grzybowski
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