Health & Safety

June 26, 2014

NCO uses humor during life-threatening battle with cancer

Nick DeCicco
60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) — Master Sgt. Sean Arnold takes most things in stride, even being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The 60th Operations Group resource manager said he’s “not even remotely shy about this,” cracking jokes and making puns about the life-threatening battle he’s faced during the past 19 months in the most personal part of his body.

“He uses humor as a way to put a spin on a situation,” said Melissa Arnold, the sergeant’s wife. “He really, truly believes that everyone should feel like that’s OK.”

Sean first noticed something was wrong in the fall of 2012 while showering and he noticed a “hard spot” on his testicle. Then a loadmaster superintendent for the 21st Airlift Squadron, Arnold’s machismo twinned with his role as a flyer, leading him to adopt a wait-and-see approach as he departed for a 3-week mission to Guam.

More than one and a half years later, it remains his most-recent flying mission.

Upon returning from Guam, Arnold said the lump grew bigger and more uncomfortable, so he called flight medicine. Within 24 hours, the then-34-year-old sergeant had an ultrasound and learned he had cancer.

As a flyer, Arnold said rather than become emotional, his coping mechanism was to “stay ahead of the jet,” a chess-like approach flyers use to accept the present, but also anticipate upcoming moves. He hungered for information and whatever appointments were necessary to help him receive treatment.

In keeping with his nonchalant nature, Melissa said it wasn’t even the first thing he told her when they talked on the phone that December 2012 afternoon.

Within one week of his diagnosis, Arnold had an orchiectomy to remove the infected testicle. It dulled the mood of the holiday season in the Arnold home as Christmas and the new year passed under the specter of waiting for the results of the biopsy. During this time, Arnold began a blog to chronicle his experience.

By January 2013, Arnold learned he had an aggressive form of stage 2 cancer which affects 8,000 men annually. His options for treatment included chemotherapy, which he found distasteful, or retroperitoneal lymph node surgery. The surgery slices open the patient vertically from the rib cage to the navel, nudging aside all of the major organs to allow doctors access to the lymph nodes, a favored path for cancerous cells to travel.

Arnold preferred the surgery. The cancer had started to spread along the lymph nodes, so the operation removed the existing cancerous cells and halted further growth.

The 8-hour surgery took place Feb. 8, 2013, at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento. The operation was a success, but a grueling recovery faced Arnold. The master sergeant spent eight days in the hospital recovering, three more days than many patients in his situation.

“From the pain side, it was pretty horrible,” he said. “It was a lot worse than I was expecting.”

Arnold said the surgery destroyed his core muscles. Melissa said it was six months before her husband was back to normal, around which time he said he nearly returned to flying.

But then it looked like the cancer had returned.

After some tests, his blood work showed the possibility the cancer had returned. Arnold spent the next few weeks on edge, worrying about his future, while tests were done. However, the results were in the sergeant’s favor. His testosterone levels were low, requiring medication for the rest of his life.

The cancer had not returned.

However, Arnold’s road to recovery is not yet complete. In May 2014, he noticed a bulge near his scar from his belly-splitting surgery. The 36-year-old said his abdominal wall healed incorrectly, causing a hernia, which will require a third surgery later this month.

Still, Arnold remains upbeat and determined to return to flying status before he reaches the 20-year mark for retirement in 2016.

“It left me feeling very mortal,” Arnold said. “I learned that it’s OK to slow down and enjoy what I have. … We get so mired down in our little day-to-day battles.”

The experience made him an advocate for men’s health. June is Men’s Health Month, particularly testicular cancer, and as typical of his humorous approach to his fight, a number of his blog entries end with a call to men to “check your junk.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Courtney Richardson)

Thunderbolt bounces back after belly landingThunderbolt bounces back after belly landing

On the evening of Sept. 30, an A-10 stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was coming back to base for a routine landing after completing a standard sortie. Just when everything seemed to be going as planned, disaster struck...
 
 
Richardson_pict

Down and out at Dyess: Air Force Assistance Fund to the rescue

It was scary, leaving home and joining an organization such as the United States Air Force. The people, job, and location were all brand new. When I joined the military, I came from a less than honorable home life.  I come fro...
 
 

SrA and below EPR static closeout date to be March 31

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Enlisted evaluation and promotion changes, announced in July, continue with establishment of a March 31 enlisted performance report static closeout date (SCOD) for Regular Air Force (RegAF) senior airmen and below, Air Force Personnel Center officials said Dec. 5. Additionally, change of reporting official evaluations (CRO) have been...
 

 

Keep holiday sweet tooth in check

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Assorted sweets are a big attraction on display in stores and are advertised in television commercials. Despite the effort to escape purchasing them and knowing they’re not healthy, people still tend to crave, buy and gobble them up. On top of the negative impact these treats have on health...
 
 

Master sergeant evaluation board, SNCO promotion changes coming

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force continues the phased implementation of its Enlisted Evaluation System and Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) changes with the convening of a master sergeant evaluation board scheduled for May 2015. Evaluation and promotion system changes, scheduled for implementation over the next 16 months for active-duty Airmen, are focused on ensuring job perfor...
 
 

Davis-Monthan EOD detonates WW-II era mortar at Fort Huachuca

An explosive ordnance disposal team from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, safely detonated a World War II-era 81mm mortar on Tuesday at 10:43 a.m. in Area H, Slaughterhouse Wash, at the end of the Libby Army Airfield runway on Fort Huachuca. A rider on horseback reported a sighting of the unexploded ordnance to fort personnel...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin