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Oct 02 2012

Survivor Spotlight – Sheri Fermino

A Valentines Day Story with…
Sheri Reddington–Fermino and Dana Fermino
by SCTA Volunteer Joanne Glosser Jaeger

We live in Plymouth Massachusetts (where the pilgrims landed).

Dana works at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant as a Security Shift Supervisor as the Security System’s Analyst and has been there for 20 years.

Our children’s are:

Sheri’s

Garrett 23 years old – works nights as a supervisor of shipping

Katelyn 19 years old – is in college to become a teacher

Isaias 6 years old – working at learning his kindergarten skills

Dana’s

Ryan 20 years old – recently left the Marine Corp, married 1 child

Brian 18 years old – recently graduated Marine Boot Camp

Beautiful grandson to us both by Ryan and his wife Lynee – Tyson 10 months old

 

Hobbies and interests

First and foremost we spend all our time with our youngest son. I say our son as Dana may not be his biological father but most definitely is his daddy.

Dana spends a lot of his time watching sports with my father. I had an addition put onto my parent’s home in 2002 and we all live happily together. Adults, children and animals alike. He also likes to go bowling, kayaking and again spends a lot of time on the computer.

I like to be outside and do yard work and gardening. I also like to draw, paint, crochet and bake.

For us both spending time with our family is of the utmost importance! Dana and I do nearly everything together to make up for the time that we had lost for so many years!

 

Our History

My husband and I met in 1990, while working at a nuclear power plant. We were friendly as he was married. About 6 months after leaving that job, I stopped at the plant to see some friends. I ran into him there. He mentioned that his wife had left him. Without hesitation, I asked him if he would like to come over for dinner. He immediately said yes.

From that first night we were inseparable, seeing each other every day, spending time together. My kids just loved him! We were good together, all of us. Dana and I were together for a wonderful year until circumstances split us up.

I never did get over him!

I finally started dating and ended up in a relationship and became pregnant. Although my son was born healthy in February of 2001, I ended up not to be.

I had many physical problems after his birth and when he was 6 months old I was diagnosed with a rare form of Spinal Cord Cancer (malignant ependymoma) which could leave me a quadriplegic. The malignant tumor is in the C4-C6 area of my neck.

I postponed surgery so that I could be there for my son’s first Christmas and first birthday. My other children were 14 and 18 at the time.

I had surgery when my baby was 13 months old. It lasted 11 1/2 hours while they removed as much of the tumor as possible. They weren’t able to get the entire tumor, but a lot of it! Now I do not have any feeling on my left side and have some problems with walking. I use a cane, walker or wheelchair depending on the severity of my day.

My parents have been unbelievably wonderful to me and my kids. My mother took a leave of absence from work for 3 months to care for my 13 month old as well as myself when I returned home from rehab.

Being a fighter, I worked extremely hard to get back to my normal way of life, or as close to normal as possible. Everyday I tried a little harder to do more and push myself to the limit. I needed to get better for my kids.

Because of my diligence and doing all of my specialized exercises at home as well as outpatient rehab I was able to walk with a walker after only a few weeks. Soon I graduated to a cane. I worked very hard to become the best that I could be. Which might I add, I continue to strive for.

Eventually, Dana and I met up again. We went out for dinner, and it was if we hadn’t missed a day of being together! As if the 11 years that we hadn’t seen each other never happened. We just clicked as we had years before.

OK, so now were together!

Over the 7 months we were back together my children got to know Dana and they also liked him.

 

We got engaged.

I was misdiagnosed for 10 years. I was told many different diagnoses such as RSD – in other words, it was all in my head, also they could find no reason for my lack of feeling, movement and pain on my right side, so they simply put me on pain killers.

On February 21, 2001 during the birth of my son, I felt that something was terribly wrong. They gave me an epidural which did not work as my tumor stopped the medication getting through my system to work properly. To make a long story short, I ended up with no feeling on my left side, difficulties walking and even holding my newborn. Still I was only given pain medication to deal with the problem. Finally when 6 months later I demanded a MRI, and it was found that I had a large “something” in my spinal cord.

I was sent to Dr. Jules Nazzaro at Boston Medical Center. Not only is he a wonderful person but a great doctor! Forgetting the fact that he is one of the top 10 neurosurgeons in the US, he is upfront, personable, warm and caring! I was truly blessed to have had his expertise and just as much so, his caring and thoughtfulness to myself and my family!

Dr. Nazzaro ordered me to have an MRI, and he informed me and my mother of my tumor and all that goes along with it. He always mentions about how I took the news. I listened intently to what he was saying and when he was finished I simply looked at him and said “ok so now what can we do about this?” Dr. Nazzaro said “did you hear what I said?” My answer was “Yes, if you think I am the type of person who is going to break down and cry and feel sorry for myself you will have a long wait. I have 3 children to think about and getting upset will not change the diagnosis, so where do we go from here.” He always says on how strong I had been from day one, always pleasant and strong willed that everything will be turning out great.

He wanted me to have surgery within 4 weeks but I explained that since there was a chance of paralysis, death or the likelihood that I may not be functional that I needed to have my sons first Christmas and his first birthday so that I could get video for him to know me prior to the surgery. So that is what I did. I had his first Christmas, and his first birthday with my family taking a 17 day vacation in Florida. (Which we still do every year to celebrate my still being here and functional although limited).

My surgery was March 13, 2002. Dr. Nazzaro was able to get a lot of the tumor but was unable to get the whole thing.

The tumor is a malignant intramedullary ependymoma which is encapsulated by a cyst so thankfully can not spread. It is located at the C-4 – C-6 level. I have lamenectomies from C-4, C-5, C-6, C-7 and a partial lamenectomies at T-1, T-2

The best thing about waking up after the surgery was that I could move all of my limbs! I may not have been able to feel them but was happy that they were all somewhat functional.

After spending time in Boston Medical Center hospital I went to a rehab facility as I had no feeling on my left side, could not stand without assistance, had no balance, numbness, weakness etc… Being in the rehab helped me to learn to do things differently. As far as I was concerned all the effects of the tumor and surgery were fine with me as I was simply happy that I was not paralyzed.

During this whole time my mother was just wonderful! She took a family leave without pay to be home and take care of my 13 month old son and visit me.

I have MRI’s regularly to watch the growth of the remaining tumor and cyst. In October 2002, the remaining tumor began to grow. I was ordered to have 28 radiation treatments in 44 days.

I am happy that I am functional and live with the symptoms that I have. I have always tried to have a good outlook on my medical issues and have never been depressed or upset about what I am going through. It won’t help matters and by being upset, it would not help it to go away, so I just simply deal with what life has given me and go through my daily living the best that I can, enjoying every minute I have and loving and enjoying the time I spend with my family.

Dr. Nazzaro is a wonderful doctor and we also grew into having a friendship. He is a caring person who is down to earth. I was honored to call him my doctor, my hero and more so to call him my friend! I was truly blessed to find and have such a wonderful doctor and even more blessed to have been given the opportunity to get to know about him as a person! This man is truly my Hero in all aspects!

Neither Dana nor I had had a big wedding in our previous marriages, so for our last we decided to go all out and have a big wedding with family and close friends to celebrate our finally being together after our long separation.

Dana and I took ballroom dance lessons for months – learning to dance with my deficits – we learned to waltz and foxtrot

My brother in law newly ordained preformed our ceremony and did so beautifully.

After the cake was cut and served I spoke to our guests, thanking them for celebrating our marriage. I explained that I had a poem that I wanted to read to someone special, that because of him, I was able to still be functional, because of him I was able to meet and get back together with the love of my life. I read a poem to this person entitled Surviving Cancer (which I had gotten from an unknown Author on the SCTA boards in 2002). After reading the poem I said “Dr. Nazzaro will you please honor me with a dance”. At this point the song Hero started to play sung by Mariah Carey. Dr. Nazzaro was touched by the reading.

 

Why I fell in Love with Sheri?

I met Sheri at the Nuclear Power Plant that I have been working. The first time I saw her I thought she was the most beautiful woman I ever set my eyes on. I had no interest in her because I was married and had two son’s that I loved and cared for.

We established a good friendship. There was a cold winter day at work when I offered my gloves to Sheri so that she would keep warm while at work. I remember the smile that it put on her face. She was just great!

Sheri left the Plant to work elsewhere and was missed. During this time my marriage ended. Months later Sheri visited the Plant and saw me. We talked for a few minutes and I thought I was in heaven. Sheri invited me to dinner and I said YES. We had a wonderful evening, great dinner, lots of conversation.

This was the beginning of our relationship. We were together every day as one. I felt complete and whole with Sheri and we were very happy together. As our relationship continued, my love for Sheri grew stronger.

Our relationship was changing. Without my knowledge the woman that I loved was changing our lives to help me and stop me from suffering by not being able to see my children. Sheri left Plymouth and moved to Florida. This was her way for me to be able to see my children.

Within a few months I was able to get my children back. I moved into my children’s household. I thought that I would be a full time father to my children. As the years went by I thought a lot about Sheri. As I look back at this time that we were not together I realize just how much I really missed her.

In 2003 I separated from my children’s mother for the last time. I lived on my own and was able to see my son’s who were teenagers now.

We kept in touch on the internet. Close to the holidays I saw her at the mall. She was as beautiful as always. We talked for a while. When I walked by her and touched her arm I felt an electric feeling go through my heart. I know it was the same for her.

Within the next month I was coming over to Sheri’s on a daily basis. We were together again. The way it was always to be. The reason I love Sheri is because of who she is to me. She sacrificed our relationship for me to be with my children. She always knows how I feel and how to correct things for me. We can talk to each other without saying any words. I look up to Sheri and respect her and her knowledge. She is my best friend and my Love for life. I will always be there for Sheri no matter what happens as time goes on.

Signed,

The Luckiest Husband in World!