Being a couple weeks into this season, I think it is time to come to the realization that I will not be behind the wheel of a race car. For the past seven months I have been dealing with some medical issues. I have been debating on how much to share with my friends and fans, but I have decided to share most of the details. I had a freckle (mole) removed and it ended up being melanoma in situ, which means it is melanoma but a very early stage. After 2 surgeries and 10 more spots removed (none of them were melanoma but severe atypical), I was on track of being able to race this year. My plan was to compete at Elko Speedway and in the Tundra Series. After the second surgery, within two days, I had extreme pain in my left arm, numbness and lost all strength. Six tests later, including an EKG, chest x-ray and MRI, the pain was found to be coming from a severely herniated disc in my neck, that had lodged itself into my spinal cord. I found myself lying in a hospital bed just 11 days after my last surgery, this time I had a six inch scar running down the back of my neck. The Neurosurgeon removed the herniated disc and also a piece of vertebrae that had broken off and was free floating next to my spinal cord. This surgery left me without being able to lift anything over 5 pounds for 6 weeks. I am currently able to gradually increase the weight by 5 pounds per week as long as I do my physical therapy. My Neurosurgeon has explained to me that more discs in my neck and back could herniate again and that I have at least a year and a half recovery period. When I asked her when I could race again she said she didn’t recommend racing again but also said that I could reinjure myself by lifting a laundry basket. So I will give myself a one year recovery period and work on gaining my strength again, and then hopefully be ready by the next season.
I am telling my personal story not for pity or anything like that, but instead, to share my story so maybe it will help another person. The mole or what really looked like a freckle didn’t look ugly or like anything that shows up when you Google skin cancer. I only had the doctor look at it because I was in for strep throat and wanted to get the most out of my appointment (I don’t have health insurance). The doctors said it was probably nothing but they might as well “put some of it in a jar”, just in case. It then came back being the best case scenario of melanoma. I haven’t been a huge tanner but I have tanned in a tanning bed on occasion and I have been burnt quite a few times. That with my eye and hair color puts me at high risk for melanoma. I am constantly checking my skin for any new moles/freckles or any that are changing in shape or size. I am now a regular at the dermatologist and doctors office. Since this all started in December I have had 3 surgeries, 11 punch biopsies, 7 of those 11 had to be further removed because they were atypical or melanoma, and a total of 60 stitches. It is because of all this that I urge everyone to check themselves out and keep an eye on anything that changes or looks out of place. I am very lucky to have caught it early, but most times it isn’t caught early and melanoma can be deadly. Melanoma is also preventable in most cases, by wearing sunscreen daily and avoiding getting burnt or tanning in tanning beds. Even though we are not at the beach every weekend or laying out by a pool, we still need to wear sunscreen and try to avoid being in the sun all day at the track. Wearing a hat and sunglasses is also a very good idea if at all possible. Check out skincancer.org for more information on how to prevent and or identify melanoma.
I will be back in a car as soon as possible but in the mean time, I will be at the track helping out Bryan Roach in the 99 Super Late Model. We will be racing at Elko Speedway and also run the Tundra Series. I look forward to learning a lot this year as we try new setups and race at new tracks.
“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”
This quote by John F Kennedy helps to remind me that even though I am not racing this year, I am given the opportunity to continue to learn new things and that I am very thankful to be able to be at the race track this year.