Sarcoma Story: Dick DeBlieck

Type of Sarcoma: Pleomorphic Sarcoma
Year of Diagnosis: 2010

DeBlieck_DickOn Friday the 13th, 2010, I received a call from a surgeon informing me that I had “an aggressive, high-grade cancer.” As a healthy 59 year-old man training for yet another 26.2-mile inline skating marathon, this came as both a shock and a surprise. I felt fine and was experiencing no pain.

This was a journey that began with a visit to my long-time primary care physician to inquire about a lump on my left shoulder. It was a benign cyst he informed me and that I shouldn’t worry about it. I persisted and asked if he could refer me to a surgeon who could remove it.

While lying on the operating table, I listened as the surgeon remarked that the “cyst” appeared to be much deeper than expected. He injected additional lydocaine and dug deeper to remove the mass. With the mass about the size of a large wad of chewing gum removed, he exclaimed, “This is no cyst! This has to go to pathology.”

When it was determined I had a pleomorphic sarcoma tumor, I proceeded through 31 radiation treatments and a second more aggressive surgery to remove the surrounding tissue. Fortunately, at this point, I was in the care of Dr. Denis Clohisy, a sarcoma cancer specialist at the University of Minnesota.

Each radiation treatment took only about 10 minutes once I was positioned on the table. The treatments themselves were not painful, but over the course of treatment the radiated skin became a bit sensitive. The goal of the second surgery was to ensure all cancer in the surrounding tissue was removed.

The combination of radiation and surgery was successful. Today, five years later, I am leading a healthy, active life with no sign of reoccurrence. My primary care physician who I saw initially, DeBlieck_Dick_Inline_Raceinformed me that in 35 years of practice this was only the second case of sarcoma he had seen.

Looking back on the experience, I realize how important it is to take action when you spot a fast-growing lump. Don’t assume such a lump is benign until you have it investigated. Getting treatment from a sarcoma specialist is also critical. These cancers are rare enough that even experienced physicians are not equipped to provide the necessary care.

Finally, be sure to appreciate every healthy day that you have and the people in your life that you love!