The U-M MedRehab program is celebrating 25 years of service. Here, cancer survivor Kyle Ziegler shares how he learned to walk again (and surprise his future wife, whom he married on June 23, 2012).
In the fall of 2007, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was 18 years old, and I’d been dating my then-girlfriend Katie for a year and a half. I received inpatient chemotherapy at the University of Michigan Hospital from October 18th to October 30th, and was sent home for a break before I started another round of chemotherapy. On November 7th, I was readmitted because I had a rare reaction to one of the chemotherapy drugs. This lead to a chain reaction of issues. I was not able to eat or drink anything for about 6 months. It was so bad that when I was coherent, I would flip through the TV channels looking for food commercials.
During this time I was totally inactive; I just laid there in the hospital bed. I had severe muscle atrophy in my entire body and I eventually had to relearn how to move everything. I was released from the hospital on July 25th, nearly 10 months after my first chemotherapy treatment. The cancer showed no signs of returning and I was followed very closely by my wonderful pediatric oncologist, Dr. Raymond J. Hutchinson. Through it all, Katie never missed a beat and was by my side every step of the way, along with my amazing family.
Now that I was out of the hospital, the real work began. I was referred to MedRehab and attended occupational therapy (OT) mainly with Julianne Shustock and physical therapy (PT) with Michelle Semple and Doug Bevilacqua. I attended sessions three times a week from August 2007 to September 2013.
It was during a PT session that I came up with a plan to propose to Katie. Up to this point, I was barely able to use a walker and I spent most of my time in a wheelchair. I told Tim, Michelle, and Doug that I was planning to propose, and they knew I had to do it on one knee. It took about six to eight weeks, but when the time came, I had it perfected. Katie had no idea that I was able to get down on one knee – at the time, she thought I had fallen down!
I met so many amazing people at MedRehab: my doctor Liza Green has been extremely helpful and encouraging through the last eight years of my life. My OTs Julianne, Sandy and Pam were always there to get me through even when things were frustrating. My PTs Michelle and Doug have become close friends over the years and are always there if I have a question relating to my therapy treatment. Tim and Pam were also every instrumental in my progress and were always there to lend a helping hand.
I’ve always been an optimistic person even when things looked pretty grim, but just knowing that there are people out there to help you when you are in the most vulnerable time of your life is really comforting. Each employee I met at MedRehab treated me like family and not just another patient. I can honestly say that because of their hard work, I am able to do the things I am doing now and live a relatively normal, productive life. It made me really want to be a physical therapist just so I could give back to others as they have done for me.
Take the Next Step:
- Learn more about Rehabilitation and Therapy at University of Michigan Health System.
- Learn more about cancer care.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including national rankings in 25 specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.