(WETM) — A simple slip during a snowstorm changed the life of one Pine City man, who is now fighting for his life.
It was January of 2022, and the Twin Tiers had already received one of many snowstorms. Like many others during a snow storm, 27-year-old Christopher Clark was outside in the wintery conditions and wound up taking a fall and landing on his back.
“I slipped and fell and could hear something pop,” Clark said, describing what happened.
After the fall Chris began to experience pain but brushed it off as normal soreness. After contracting and recovering from COVID, the pain had risen to excruciating levels, so much so, that he was unable to do pretty basic activities. This led him and his wife Emily to the hospital.
The couple requested an MRI, but time and time again they were rejected. Their doctor saw no need after performing an initial X-ray and instead sent Chris to physical therapy.
“We really wanted to trust this first doctor,” Emily said, “But deep down, we thought something might have been wrong.”
Weeks passed, and nothing was getting better for Chris. On April 5th, he was finally seen by a second doctor and was able to set up an MRI.
Halfway through the MRI, they found what had been giving Chris all his pain. It was learned that he had a fractured vertebra, and he was admitted to the emergency room soon after the discovery.
After many tests, Chris heard the soul-crushing news that so many people hear every year, that he has cancer.
Chris was diagnosed with a peripheral nerve sheath tumor that had destroyed his L2 vertebra from the inside, by growing in the soft tissue. These findings explain why an X-ray was unable to see anything majorly wrong with Chris. The tumor had made Chris’ vertebra so fragile, that the one fall in January, was enough for it to shatter. The bad news didn’t end there, it was discovered that the tumor had metastasized to his T11 vertebra and possibly into his lungs. Thankfully, for now, the spots in his lungs are small and are being monitored by his team of doctors.
On April 11, Chris had surgery to remove his L2 vertebra along with a spinal fusion. The tumor had been pushing onto Chris’ spinal cord, and doctors were amazed that he was walking for as long as he was.
For now, it’s a waiting game, and, as one might expect, is mentally draining for the young couple. They had just got married in October of 2021, and are expecting their first child in September. Due to Chris’ condition, he’s been unable to work for months, leaving Emily, a nurse at Arnot Hospital in Elmira, the provider for their family.
Everything was a very big adjustment for both of them, especially in the beginning. “I would cry and Chris would comfort me and then he would cry,” Emily said while describing the lifestyle changes.
Currently, Chris is waiting to be scheduled for two more surgeries on his back. One of the surgeries is to remove his T11 vertebra, which was shown to have a tumor. After the procedures, Chris is expected to go through both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, creating yet another battle for him to face.
Although he is going up against many challenges at such a young age, he isn’t alone. The couple said they have a fantastic supporting network of friends and family members, as well as people they don’t even know.
“The outpour of information and outreach is overwhelming,” Chris said after making his diagnosis public and seeing all the support he’s gotten.
A GoFundMe is set up for the Clark Family by a relative and has already seen a tremendous amount of support.
“It’s not just a monetary thing,” Chris said, “any type of support you (he) owe your life to,” he said when asked about all the support they have been receiving. If anything, just spreading the word helps, Chris said, and that it’s been amazing to connect to people on a human level.
He said that one of his biggest supporters was his wife Emily and that without her, he may have found out about the cancer when it was far too late. With her being a nurse she knew Chris’ initial injury, and severe pain, required more than just physical therapy, but Chris said he’s a person that tends to trust doctors because they’re very skilled in their field and wouldn’t have pushed to see a new doctor if it wasn’t for her.
As the couple continues to wait for the next big step, they’re doing whatever they can to keep their mental health in a good place.
“My best advice to anyone dealing with cancer right now is to stay off the internet,” Christ said when talking about ways to stay positive. He said that reading things online about your condition, at least in his experience, wasn’t helping and only made things worse.
To keep his spirits up, Chris finds comfort in humor. “I have to make a joke about it (his cancer),” he said while speaking about his coping mechanisms.
“I understand the weight, but if I can’t find any levity or humor out of it, then I’m not okay with it,” he explained. He’s okay with joking about it, and knows how serious it is, but doesn’t dwell on it, instead, he makes light of it any way he can.
The couple plans to go to New York City’s Sloan Kettering, at some point, to get a second opinion from doctors that know more about Chris’ type of cancer.
This is just one of the many stories of real people who battle every day with cancer, with this one being close to home.