Dr. Doug Metz was diagnosed in 1996 at age 39 with an acoustic neuroma brain tumor.
“The diagnosis of a 5-centimeter acoustic neuroma tumor and seeing the MRI was scary and discouraging. Surgery that was needed to treat me was emotionally devastating,” Metz said. “I learned that the surgery would save my life and could cure me of the tumor but would leave me with a variety of possible permanent disabilities.”
After the surgery, Metz struggled with balance issues and had to learn to walk again. He also became permanently deaf in his left ear, had vision impairment because of dry eye syndrome and was left with a permanent facial deformity caused by nerve damage.
“Some days I felt like I was moving forward in a heavy fog, trying to grasp it all, but knowing I needed to keep moving,” Metz said. “Just like in cycling, you must keep moving or you will fall over.”
A chance meeting with another brain tumor patient at a conference in Dallas six months after his surgery was important to his recovery, Metz said.
“While at the conference, listening as other patients with the same issues discussed them, a very kind lady from Texas said to me, ‘You can learn how to live life in a slightly smaller box,’” Metz said. “At that time, it was very encouraging and empowering because it gave me a concept to focus on: a ‘smaller box’ still gave me opportunities to live. I was alive and could learn to live with my disabilities.”
Active in road biking, rock climbing, swimming and skating before his diagnosis, Metz focused his efforts on getting some function back so he could be reengaged with family activities and return to work duties as chief health services officer and executive vice president at American Speciality Health. His wife, Ruth, saw information about the Tour de Komen ride, and Metz was impressed with the focus on research to find better treatments.
Getting ready for the ride, which began in Fishers and ended in Terre Haute, took some work.
“At age 65, getting in shape and staying in physical condition doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “I need to take special precautions to be sure I am safe when riding, such as riding on the outside edge of a group (when riding in a group); riding with the group on my right side so I can hear if someone is passing me; riding on hard pavement, never on gravel or paths, and never riding when it’s dark or slippery, such as after a rain while roads are wet.”
Encouragement of others helped along the route.
“I was having a very successful ride and keeping up with the other riders when I came upon a few hills that were hard. One of the other riders saw I was struggling and came alongside to offer encouragement and to help pace me up the hill,” Metz said. “I later learned his name: Pat Shannon, from Nebo Ridge Cycling Club. His words of encouragement and confidence at the right time in the moment made all the difference.”
The same, Metz said, was true in overcoming many negative and difficult times climbing the hills of brain tumor recovery. It’s become a message he wants to pass along to others.
“Once I learned to be aware and accept that recovery would be hard, that ‘living life’ with limitations, such as a disfigured face and hearing loss, would be different than expected, I came to grasp and accept that living life outside of that smaller box I had previously accepted could be hard, but fulfilling, thrilling, and joyful,” Metz said. “Accepting a new reality and pushing through it with all available tools and supporters makes crossing the recovery finish line possible.”
The ride was founded by Westfield resident Kyle Vannoni, who lost his mother to breast cancer. The event raises funds to benefit the Susan G. Komen nonprofit, which raises funds to support breast cancer patients and find a cure.
Learn more at tourdekomen.org.