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Oct 11 2012

Survivor Spotlight – Steve Hall

Steve Hall – There’s always for a good love story…
by Volunteer Joanne Glosser Jaeger

Tell us about yourself:

I’m 51 and a software engineer. I design software which is embedded in handheld devices. Right now I’m working on a device that tests network cables. I live in Vista, California in the San Diego area where I’ve lived for 23 years now. I have a home in the country with a dozen citrus trees and great weather for growing things.

Tell us about your recent wedding:

Nancy and I were married on Feb 19. We’ve known each other for 12 years. She teaches 2nd grade and is an excellent, creative teacher. She finds what is special in each child and fosters that in them and

encourages them to do well. We love to eat and cook good food and entertain. She has a son, Mitchell, who is a senior in high school. He plays tenor sax and won an All State honor for that. He made the varsity volleyball team this year.

Nancy and I had a great honeymoon near San Francisco. We stayed in Sausalito, Tiburon and Sonoma.

What about your SCT experience? Tell us about your surgery, and recovery:

As with everyone that’s a long story. About 10 years before my surgery I wanted to do a triathlon. I trained very hard and when I got to a certain point in my training I would get really bad back spasms. As years went by I did less strenuous exercise to protect from triggering my low back. One Thanksgiving it got really bad and was worse at night, which was new. I had new shoes so when my toes started going numb I blamed it on that. I saw a doctor, got anti-inflammatory medicine, went to a physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon. He said I had a bad disc, which I do. It continued to get worse so I asked the doctor for an MRI. Bingo, tumor. Then the research began to find out about what I had and what to do. I used the internet, but didn’t find SCTA until after my surgery. I found a teaching neurosurgeon and the University of California at San Diego. I took steroids and got very heavy before my surgery. The surgery took 12 hours and Nancy was there when I woke up. I had a numb right foot. It was completely useless. I panicked at first, and then decided to get better as fast as I could. Physical therapy really saved me. I went for 5-6 months and got to walking pretty decent. My left calf was affected and that eventually responded to electric stimulation to fire the muscle while I tried to flex it myself. I did toe raises in the pool with the water up to my chest and eventually was able to do it on dry land. Balance has been a problem, and usually is a surprise. I used a walker for a few weeks. That was hard, emotionally. I depend on my eyesight a lot to stay upright. I guess it took me over two years to get back to what I could accept as ‘normal.’ I’ve had issues with my bladder, not too bad.

Personal interests, hobbies:

I’ve always been an avid snow skier. My greatest fear was not being able to ski. Luckily I can ski fine; my age and conditioning are more an issue than my SCT problems. I have to stay focused or my right ski can drift and get me in trouble. My free time has been spent in my yard since I bought my home, which I did a week before my surgery. I wanted to have a nice place to recuperate. I didn’t anticipate how much attention an acre in the country demands. I’ve learned to love it. I have a dozen citrus trees, hummingbirds, hawks and gorgeous sunsets.

Favorite movies?

A Patch of Blue with Sidney Poitier
Fanny with Maurice Chevalier
Giant (Rock Hudson, Liz Taylor, James Dean)
Rebel Without A Cause
Grapes of Wrath

Favorite Books:

Grapes of Wrath
East of Eden
The Fountainhead
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Mountain Man

Personal philosophy:

My personal philosophy has been closely associated with an Eastern ideology, primarily Buddhist. I like the idea of trying to be present in the moment. We have tendencies to worry about the future and regret the past; to stay in the moment can be a challenge. My favorite teacher is Thich Nhat Hahn and Jack Kornfield. I was raised Catholic and went to an all boys high school in Peoria, Illinois, so Midwestern and Christian values are a strong part of who I am. I value friendly, considerate, down to earth people. Nancy and I went to Chicago and Milwaukee last summer and visited family near Lake Geneva, Wis. That’s where I proposed to her, a few hundred feet from where my Grandfather was born.

Share some of your experiences/thoughts from the SCTA Conference:

The conference was really special for me. There is so much power in being with people like you who understand what you’ve been through and what you are dealing with. That’s the beauty of SCTA – without it we would have no way to find other SCT survivors. It was nice to meet people I’ve only known online and have been so helpful to me over the years. I met a lot of great people and had a fun time in Las Vegas. The speakers were so good; I especially loved meeting Dr Jallo, our hero! I commend the officers of SCTA and everyone who volunteers to make it what it has become. We do a valuable service to those newcomers who need information and resources.

When was your surgery?

My surgery was on July 17, 2000

How was Nancy through all of this?

The most important thing for me was for her to be there when I woke up. The surgery took so long and I didn’t wake up right away so she headed home. On her way home I woke up and asked where she was. They called her on her cell phone and she came back to see me. She was very supportive, and took me to appointments when she could.

Do you exercise?

Not as much as I should. I have historically taken yoga classes, which always helps since my surgery, just haven’t had the time. I have been a member of 24 Hour Fitness for 22 years and like to lift weights and use the treadmill. The treadmill was a big part of my physical therapy, my goal was to walk 3 mph and it took a long time to get there. Now I can walk up to 4mph and run at 5mph. I like to hike, play tennis, and ski. My foot tingling is a psychological deterrent to exercise because it just doesn’t feel comfortable.

Tell us a bit about Nancy? What made you fall in love with her? How did you meet?

Nancy and I were introduced by a neighbor of mine who knew her sister. They thought we would like each other. We were both raised Catholic and come from the Midwest originally. At the time her son was 5. They had us over for dinner. We hit it off immediately, her son sat on my lap and colored while we talked. I thought she was beautiful, very nice, and liked that she had a child and had changed careers from marketing to teaching so she could spend more time with him. Nancy has a heart of gold, is very creative, passionate, loves the holidays and decorating, has a great sense of style (Bohemian), sense of humor, and is very family oriented. She loves the outdoors and nature, and animals. I could go on and on about Nancy. She loves children and her students and nieces and nephews love her. She really lights them up. On Valentines Day I brought a bouquet of flowers to her classroom and met her students. They also attended our wedding. It was fun meeting them and answering their questions. Nancy had them write notes to me on how to be a good husband. They were hysterical.

Nancy’s Story:

I met Steve over a dozen years ago, when a mutual friend thought we should meet and gave him my number. He called and asked to meet for coffee. I said I didn’t like coffee, so, no thanks. Well, our friend didn’t give up on us and invited us both over for a BBQ.

Steve and my son, who had just turned 5, hit it off coloring together. Steve’s a polite gentleman, very proud of his Midwestern Catholic school upbringing. He talked marriage within 6 months of meeting and I

just about ran the other way! I had an ugly divorce and was not getting any emotional, physical or financial support from my ex. So, I wasn’t interested in doing that anytime soon. As time went on we flipped on this topic. Then this past summer when I had completely given up hope on us ever marrying, Steve proposed after spending time visiting with his relatives. He said, “You know, Nancy, we’re like family.” I shrugged and replied, “Kinda,” He got more serious and stated, “No, we really are” From hanging out with my now 16 year old son and his friends I thought, “Whatever?!”

Steve proceeded to get even more serious he even got down on one knee. I didn’t take him serious at first. I thought he was teasing until I noticed the tears in his eyes. I knew then he was very serious. I said, “Yes!”

As we flew home from that trip to Chicago and surrounding areas, I suggested eloping to Hawaii with my son and our Moms. Steve insisted we have a wedding since I was finally taking a 51 year old bachelor off the market. From that moment on we were busy planning a dream wedding. Steve was very generous with my engagement ring and the custom wedding band he had made to match.

Our wedding ceremony was very meaningful and full of blessings. My pen pal and now best friend sang “Love Can Build A Bridge” at Steve’s request. Our sisters did readings, my son walked me down the aisle. We were surrounded by lots of family, friends and my class of second graders. As we walked out of the church after having some pictures taken we walked into a sea of bubbles, which was hard to tell who enjoyed more- my 7 year old students or our friends.

At the reception, Steve surprised me and sang to me Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody”. My son & I knew Steve has a beautiful voice and now all our family and friends do, too.

Steve and I didn’t date the whole time we’ve known each other. At times we both dated other people thinking that maybe someone would have more similarities, as we can be quite opposite. We would run into each other at the most random places and times. There seemed to be synchronicity or divine intervention. Our friendship always remained very close and we both had accepted the fact that we would always be special in each others lives long before the proposal.

When Steve was told he had a spinal cord tumor, I was the first person he called.

We weren’t dating at the time and I was in South Dakota visiting my best friend who happens to be a hospice nurse. She and Steve talked a long time as he had lots of questions. The next day, he called me again and asked if I would be home in time for his surgery as he wanted me there when he woke up. He even delayed his surgery a few days to wait until I would be back in town.

I agreed to meet Steve at church the night before his surgery. I hadn’t seen him for a month or so. He asked me to warn my son that he looked different due to his steroid medicine. My son was fine with the change. I on the other hand was absolutely shocked. My good-looking boyfriend had turned into Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor. That night Steve tearfully shared his fears about the surgery and what the worst things could be.

My family and friends were all praying for him the day of his surgery. I waited for what felt like forever for his doctor to come talk to me. I was grateful for Steve’s decision of surgeon after talking to his doctor. I knew Steve had been in good hands and all those things he feared would not be happening to him. I never doubted my faith.

Steve’s recovery was hard to watch. As an independent bachelor for so long, it was hard for him to ask for help or accept it. I tried to be his cheerleader and in time he was almost completely back to himself.

A year and a half ago, I had an emergency appendectomy and Steve was a fabulous nurse having been through his ordeal. He was patient, encouraging and delivered lots of flowers!

I know he has been very active on the spinal cord website as a form of gratitude for all the support he got. I think he would have liked answers and more information early on, from people that knew what was up. So, he tries to give that to others. I find it so sweet when he’ll email me to pray for his new email buddies starting their journey. He’s so excited when he hears happy endings like he had.

That’s my husband, Steve!