The tumor on the base of his spine was the size of grapefruit.
But it took time to convince doctors that something was very wrong.
Three years later, 29-year-old Clinton resident Aaron Dworkin is celebrating life; the one he still has after suffering two unrelated forms of cancer and beating them both.
At age 26, after having complained of severe lower back pain and after doctors told him he was probably sore from working in the construction industry, Dworkin finally got an answer.
A magnetic resonance image identified the large tumor on Dworkin’s sacrum as an extremely rare malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor.
The tumor was growing out of a nerve and over the bone of his spinal column and after it was cut out and radiated, Dworkin was left with no strength in his left leg.
“I was supposed to be paralyzed,” he said.
“The surgeon told my mother and me that I was very lucky to be walking again.”
Finally finishing the six weeks of radiation, Dworkin moved with his wife and children from the San Francisco Bay Area to Whidbey Island to be closer to his mom and aunts.
Three days after leaving California, doctors told him his most recent X-ray had revealed thyroid cancer, a cancer also rare in young men.
Dworkin underwent a second round of surgery to remove his thyroid, followed by radioactive iodine treatment which destroys thyroid cells and for which he had to be quarantined.
Except for the loss of strength in his left leg and having to take thyroid medicine, Dworkin said he feels good and he’s subsequently learned a few lessons.
“It was hard. My marriage fell apart and I have to be retrained in order to find a new career,” Dworkin said.
“But I push for what I need now.
I don’t guess anymore,” he added, referring to the doctors who didn’t believe his pain was as severe as it was.
He now makes the trip to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for check-ups once per year.
Dworkin doesn’t look back and only wants to celebrate his new lease on life.
“I want to give back now,” he said.
In that spirit, Dworkin has embraced his new perspective and has organized an event to raise funds and awareness for cancer.
The Edgecliff in Langley will host a ladies night at 10 p.m. Friday,
Dec. 19, the anniversary of Dworkin’s first surgery.
With Dworkin providing his services as DJ, an activity he has happily embraced since his ordeal, the event will combine music and dancing, drink specials, finger foods and games with a special jewelry-raffle fundraiser.
Dworkin has donated a 1½-carat diamond platinum ring as the grand prize.
Second prize is a pair of white gold hoop earrings, and third prize is a massage donated by Body Kneads.
“I remember when I was going through everything, my guy friends were worrying about what bar they were going to hang out in,” Dworkin said.
“I was worrying about if I would be able to use my leg and be able to go to the bathroom on my own,” he said.
Dworkin said he was inspired by fellow cancer survivor and cycling champion Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.”
He is working on his own book so that people can be inspired by the fact that even as a young man, cancer doesn’t have to ruin your life.
“Cancer has given me the perspective that life is too short; that you have to have fun while you can and give back to the world,” Dworkin said.
Twenty-five percent of raffle ticket sales will be donated to Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Raffle tickets are $20 and are available at the Edgecliff or the Beachfire Grill in Freeland. The drawing will be held at midnight. For more details, call the Edgecliff at 221-8899.