I competed as a collegiate power lifter in the 1980’s, and for a few years after graduating. I didn’t exactly make it big as a competitor, but power-lifting is an amateur sport. I never intended to have any notoriety or make any money. I did, however, really enjoy the 2-2 ½ hours I spent training daily, and the camaraderie with the other athletes.
In the early 1990’s I started experiencing back pain, which would occasionally spread down my leg. I took it to be sciatica, and modified my workouts to try to alleviate the pain. I lifted much less weight, and less frequently, and instead turned to other forms of exercise. Despite the changes, my back pain worsened. I visited a number of doctors, mostly orthopedists and neurologists who, upon learning of my background, invariably told me I had compressed my spine with all the years of heavy lifting. Only spinal surgery, including the insertion of metal rods to reduce the compression, could lessen my pain.
I tried in vain for two years to explain that, as an athlete, I believed I knew my body well enough to know my pain was not emanating from a structural problem. But I could not get any doctor, in any specialty, in multiple cities, to run any test or consider any other alternative. Meanwhile, the pain had become debilitating and, more disturbingly, I had gradually lost significant use of my left leg, and was walking with a cane.
I will never forget finally being referred to Dr. Charles Downing, neurosurgeon, in Savannah Georgia in June, 1992. Dr. Downing ran neurological tests and an MRI, and discovered I had a spinal tumor. I was immediately scheduled for surgery. I was told there was a 50/50 chance the surgery could result in permanent loss of nerve function to my left leg, and that I might lose the use of my leg.
Going into surgery I promised myself two things: if I lost the use of my leg I would not resort to using a wheel chair and that if I retained the use of my leg, I would never complain about life’s more marginal issues ever again.
I’ve asked for God to look over my wife, my children, my parents…, but I’ve never been one to pray for anything for myself. This was the exception. I asked God to save my leg. My moment of deliverance came in the recovery room in the hospital. Still groggy from anesthesia, I asked my wife to touch my leg. I flinched when I felt her hand, and knew my prayer had been answered. I have been pain free and physically active ever since.