In the five weeks since my cousin Greg Fusco let me write about his lifelong cancer battle (“The face of cancer — and strength,” published Aug. 14), a lot has happened.
Greg’s heart stopped beating as he was being prepared for surgery at Rush University Medical Center on Aug. 15. It isn’t clear why. Doctors revived him within seconds, but the episode delayed their plans to attempt to remove the huge, oblong, cancerous tumor from the right side of his face.
On Aug. 25 — Greg’s 28th birthday — his surgeons finally were able to begin attacking the tumor, cutting off the blood flow to it.
The following day, they removed almost all of the mass and reconstructed Greg’s cheek.
It has all been an ordeal. Greg, whose cancer cost him his sight as a teen, still has a tracheotomy and feeding tube. After surgery, he’s experienced digestive issues and some memory loss, among other problems.
Still, on Wednesday — 30 days after entering the hospital — Greg went home.
Sun-Times readers’ outpouring of support for him, on social media and in emails, has helped keep him going. His parents read him many of the messages in the hospital, bringing them all to tears.
What will be done going forward is still being devised. For now, a nurse, physical therapist and speech therapist all are seeing Greg regularly at home. Doctors plan to closely watch the fraction of the tumor that they couldn’t remove.
“He’s light years ahead of where he was when he initially started,” says Greg’s lead surgeon, Dr. Pete Batra.
Greg’s likely to receive proton therapy or another form of radiation, says his mother, Desi Fusco.
“Day by day, he’s making strides,” she says. “The physical therapist had him walking forward and backward. He follows directions well. He’s here to please, very obedient.
“We’re trying to bulk him up. He’s got quite the road ahead of him.”
Going home to Oak Lawn was emotional, especially Greg’s reunion with his three-pound Yorkshire terrier.
The dog’s name: Rocky — a fighter, just like Greg.