READ HIS STORY
“I’m not defined by cancer. I’m defined by being a survivor.”
Harlan was a normal, active guy who worked construction during the week and hiked mountains on the weekend. His whole life revolved around physical challenges. He thrived on it. Then one day, he was faced with a new challenge.
“I was working on a construction site when I started noticing a pain in my hip. It got progressively worse, until sometimes the pain would be so intense that my muscles would give out and I’d fall down. One day I felt a crack in my leg and then a tingling. It was extremely painful. I decided then that I was going to the doctor.”
“After an MRI, they sent me into this little room. It was completely empty except there was a box of tissues on the table and a couple of chairs. It was very small. When the doctor came in he told me he couldn’t tell me exactly what he saw in the MRI. He said, ‘You have a lesion on your left femur and it looks aggressive.’ I asked him what he meant by ‘aggressive’ and he said ‘I can’t say for sure, but I’ve seen tumors during my career and by ‘aggressive’ I mean it could be cancerous.’ And right there, it was like, boom. I went completely delirious. It was almost like being in a dream sequence.”
It was at the doctor that Harlan found out that what he thought was just a strain or a side-effect of his labor-intensive job, was something much more.
Shortly after, Harlan was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that typically starts in the patient’s femur. His solution was extensive surgery that resulted in the removal of a quarter of his femur and half of his hip, which was replaced with titanium. He also had to have 25% of the muscle in his upper leg removed, to keep the cancer cells from spreading into the surrounding tissue.
“I just said to myself, ‘I’m going to trust the doctors, they know what they’re doing.’ And realistically, I didn’t have control over the situation anymore. They had to be the ones to save me.”
The surgery was an outstanding success, but Harlan’s recovery was far from over. He still had a long road of chemotherapy and rehab to face in the coming year, and with his normally active lifestyle, it wasn’t going to be easy.