LEXINGTON, Ky. - Every three weeks, Kio Sanford knows it’s coming.
The most desired of foods — pizza, hamburgers, steak — taste about as appealing as turpentine.
His hands swell. His face puffs. His skin turns drier than the Mojave.
Many are the days when a 33-year-old Lexington police officer — hardly more than a decade removed from his days as a standout wide receiver at the University of Kentucky — is so weak he doesn’t feel like getting out of bed.
“The worst part of this whole thing was the first week of chemo,” Sanford says. “I was like, ‘I have 13 more treatments of this? I don’t know if I can do this. I’m going to quit.’”
It started last summer as a little knot the size of a popcorn kernel on Kio Sanford’s side.
He went to his family doctor. Don’t think it’s cancer, he was told.
Next came a visit to a plastic surgeon to have the knot removed. Don’t think it’s cancer, Sanford was told.
By the time Sanford went back to the plastic surgeon to have his stitches removed, the doctor had called a pathologist for another opinion.
The date July 13, 2007 — Friday the 13th — is seared into Kio Sanford’s memory.
“Jenny,” Sanford said when he called his wife, “they just said I have cancer.”
Ewing’s sarcoma is normally a cancer found in the bones. It most often afflicts teenage Caucasians.
In this case, it was in the abdominal wall of an African American in his early 30s.
“The news I found on the Internet, it wasn’t very positive,” Sanford says. “They’re talking about you have anywhere between three to five years to live. It was depressing.”
The plan the doctors came up with for Sanford involved an aggressive form of chemotherapy — 14 weeks of multi-day treatments (three days one week, then five days the next time) separated by three-week intervals.
“It’s miserable,” Sanford says. “Every time, you ask yourself, do I really want to go through this again?”
When it gets to that point, Sanford weighs what quitting would leave behind.
The 75-year-old grandmother who helped raise him and adores him. A wife who loves him and has stood by him. An adorable 7-year-old girl who calls him Daddy.
“You can’t quit,” Sanford says.
At first, dealing with the emotional impact of the diagnosis no one ever wants to hear proved nearly as challenging as the disease.(p2)
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