Oct 02 2012

Survivor Spotlight – Kerry Royce

Kerry Royce – by volunteer Joanne Glosser Jeager

Who is Kerry? I’m 52, the father of two wonderful daughters. I had my tumor resected in 1990, and then I had a recurrence in 1997 and had another resection. I’m just tingling and vibrating from the neck down.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been, not where I am, and certainly not where I’m going. I have gone back to school. I am working on a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. I’m on SSDI and have a full scholarship which comes in mighty handy. In addition to the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) certification I am working on two other certifications. The Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and the certified hypnotherapist certificate through the National Guild of Hypnotists. Soooo…, that keeps me pretty busy.


What’s big and hairy and slobbery and pushy and bossy and good for you?

I have to exercise. I have gone through periods of depression in which I did no exercise at all. That was terribly, terribly destructive for me. My advice to anyone who is deep in depression is to get a dog. Especially a big, hairy, slobbery, pushy, bossy, high-spirited dog. Especially, if you live in an apartment like I do. You don’t get to just lie on the couch all day and watch TV. Let me tell you about my girl Roxy.

I was teaching at a charter high school in Tulsa. I had a dog named Rosie that all my students knew about. She was an older dog. A wonderful pet. Well, she passed away of old age and time went by, and I was getting used to the idea of not having a dog. And it was OK because I live in a small apartment. One day, one of my students showed up in class with a picture of a small black-and-white puppy. Well, she was adorable. But I put him off. I didn’t think I could handle a puppy. To make a long story short, Roxy and I have been together for three years.

Let me you Labrador Retrievers are an active dog. She actually tried to dig her way out of the apartment. Well, that didn’t work out for her but she did manage to dig up a good part of the carpet. Thankfully, she’s grown out of that stage and is now a wonderful adult dog requires several walks every day and a lot of time and attention. Roxy has been a very good addition to my life. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I do throw my hands up in despair. However, she requires exercise and regular grooming, etc. And that is a very good thing for somebody with a spinal cord tumor. I’ll tell you why. She forces me to get up and get outside. Even when I don’t want to. And there have been plenty of days when Roxy and I have been standing out in the snow and ice. When it’s somewhere between zero and 9° outside with howling North winds. However, that’s how she likes it. She loves to play in the snow. The wetter, the colder, the better. Now we all know how cold and spinal cord tumors don’t get along. But watching Roxy play in the snow and ice with gusto and a love for life is infectious. And yes, I get down in the ice and snow with her. Living with an 80 pound dog like Roxy means you don’t have time to lay on the sofa and get depressed. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried to lay on the sofa and get depressed only to have Roxy drop a great big bone on my head to get me off my rear end. And let me tell you a 5 pound bone leaves a mighty big bump on your head.

Roxy actually has a sense of humor. She gets a look in her eye that she wants to play and throws things at me. If I misplaced any clothes, they wind up becoming toys for her. I have to say socks and underwear are not toys. So I’ve learned to be a much better housekeeper. I’ve actually had the sad experience of inviting a date over to the apartment, only to watch Roxy throw a dirty pair of underwear in her lap. That she got out from deep in the recesses of my closet. Now, dirty underwear in the lap was Roxy’s invitation to play. But it did not go over very well. Living with a big dog in a small apartment requires the owner have a good sense of humor. And I have trained her well. She barks once, and I stand. She barks twice and I sit down and shake hands.

Here are some concrete benefits of having a pet. Roxy takes my attention off me. So I generally don’t have time to get down and depressed. Roxy requires constant exercise. The other day we walked 4 miles together. I weighed 203 pounds when I got her. Now, I weigh 168. And it is just plain a lot of fun to snuggle with a great big hairy slobbering beast. It’s not without its trials, believe me. She has grossed me out on more than one occasion. You know dogs eat just about anything. And then of course they want to lick your face and share of their treat with you. Eau of dead squirrel is not my favorite fragrance. Especially when it’s applied generously to my face by a great big slobbering tongue.


What is Tulsa Oklahoma like?

Tulsa, Oklahoma started out as a meeting place of Native Americans along the Arkansas River. They would have a tribal council in the shade of a large oak tree that overlooks the river. That oak tree is alive today and is called the Council Oak tree. Tulsa is in eastern Oklahoma and it’s surrounded by hills. In fact most visitors to Tulsa are surprised by the hills and trees since most of Oklahoma is flat and prairie. Tulsa is right on the edge of where the Prairie meets the Eastern Forest. You can drive just a few miles west of Tulsa and north a little bit and you run into the western prairie. There is a large Prairie preserve and they have allowed native grasses take over in the land has never been put under a plow and several hundred buffalo are out there. The land is owned by the nature Conservancy and it’s less than a 30 minute drive from Tulsa. You travel east for about an hour and you are in the Ozark Mountains. They are covered in pine trees and are really just large hills that cover Eastern Oklahoma, Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas, but they sure are a beautiful.

Tulsa and the surrounding suburbs make up a town of about 750,000 people. There is a lot of oil and natural gas production in the area. In fact there are two refineries on the west bank of the Arkansas River fairly close to downtown which is located on the east bank of the Arkansas River. I myself was an oil brat raised in the Middle East right by a refinery. I’ll never forget asking my father what that smell was coming from the refinery. He said “Kerry that’s money”.


What was your profession before you went back to school?

I worked in the computer field. I did network technical support and worked with network operating systems. As time went by I found it more and more difficult to keep up and be as productive as I wanted to be. Particularly after the recurrence of my ependymoma in 1997.


What inspired you to get your degrees in the fields you are now pursuing?

I went through a series of jobs beginning in 2000 trying to find something I could do and be productive in. Finally I went to the department of rehabilitation services where I went through a series of tests and the evaluator finally said “Kerry, why don’t you do what we do?” I asked him how do I do that? And the rest is history as they say! I took 15 hours worth of undergraduate psychology classes and then enrolled in a masters program to get my Certified Rehabilitation Counselor license. So far I have a 4.0 and am on a full scholarship. I also get help from the department of rehabilitation services.


What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your degrees?

A rehabilitation counselor is really vocational counselor for people who have disabilities and can work but are currently unemployed or underemployed. I really enjoy the counseling part and really hope to be more of a counselor than a vocational person. That’s why I’ll be getting my LPC at the same time in my CRC. Although I do enjoy assessment and think I would be very good at it. I did a hundred hours practicum with the assessment center here in Tulsa and enjoyed it very much. Yes, I made many friends there and they are great people. Stress is a real issue with me because it manifests itself physically in me by a tremendous increase in the pins and needles feeling that I have from the neck down. This can be very uncomfortable. So I have to be aware of stress and fatigue. Although I do have a very active exercise program which helps a lot. Fatigue is an important factor for me. When I push myself to the point that I’m exhausted it can take me days to recover. So I have to be very careful not to overdo. And of course I overdo all the time. Just because that’s who I am. I have things I want to do; things I want to accomplish. But God willing, I’ll be a little smarter about pushing myself to the brink. That’s not good for me or the people I work for.


Has hypnosis helped you personally?

Yes, I learned self hypnosis techniques from a psychologist when I was having really big problems controlling my anxiety. Self hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are excellent tools to have in my belt for dealing with my situation as a spinal cord tumor survivor. I have been very successful bringing my blood pressure down and redirecting my thoughts away from the pain and discomfort caused by the spinal cord tumor, its resection and subsequent atrophy of the spinal cord. I think these tools and techniques can be very useful for all of us spinal cord tumor survivors. ma State University’s hyperbaric chamber a research facility right here in Tulsa.


An Optimist

To know me is to know that I’m a serious optimist. And part of that optimism results in a can-do attitude. One thing that’s important to know about me; I am an extremely optimistic person and I take my sense of humor with me where ever I go. It can’t be dangerous at times so be warned.


Tell me about your friendship with Linda? How did that develop? How close are you? How has she helped you?

I have known Linda since 2000. I met Linda online when I was very depressed and felt totally alone in the world. I didn’t know of any other spinal cord tumor survivors and was searching online and I came across Robert’s website. Well lo and behold I discovered there are people who have survived these things. Linda and I exchanged e-mails and before you know it we were gabbing away on the telephone. Linda has been a great source of support for me and has become a good friend over the years. I had hoped to make all the SCTA conferences and see her. But financially I have not been able to do so. I am very hopeful that I will make the next conference. I tell you it’s been a lot of fun watching this website grow over the years. While I don’t post very much I am very interested. Linda’s support has been a real blessing to me. Linda is a great person.