Luke Leingang remembers standing, waiting for the MRI results. His parents told him the tingling in his arm might be from a pinched nerve or a bunched disk. All he knew for sure was his neck had been sore all year and his right arm hadn't been working right, making baseball hard.
When the results came, he was sent to the emergency room.
Three years ago, junior Luke Leingang was diagnosed with a tumor inside his spinal canal. The "tingling" occurred because the tumor pinched the nerves that affected his right arm.
"The tumor was an osteoblastoma, which means that it was a bone tumor," Luke Leingang said. "When they found (the tumor), it had already eaten away at most of my C5 vertebra. When they performed the surgery, they removed C4 and C5 to give them more space to operate."
These are two of the eight cervical nerves in the neck, numbered C1 through C8. Each of these nerves leads to a different part of the body. They support functions, such as sensory, motor and organ. When Leingang noticed motor control problems in his right arm, his mom, Colleen Leingang, reconsidered the severity of his possible injury.
"We became more concerned as he was noticing ... problems in his right arm, especially at the start of baseball in the spring," Colleen said. "We took him to his pediatrician, Dr. Stephen McDonough, who ordered an MRI."
Around 8 p.m. on a Monday, his parents received the news that he had a tumor in the cervical spine of his neck and that it didn't look good. His doctor scheduled an appointment for him with a pediatric neurologist, who specializes in central nervous system tumors, at the Mayo Clinic. The appointment was scheduled for the next day at 1 p.m. That evening, a variety of close friends came to see him, including his traveling basketball team coach, Doug Vanderpan.
"I found out about Luke's tumor through his dad. He called me while I was coming home from softball on a summer evening," Vanderpan said. "It really hit me hard, and I asked myself, 'Why Luke?' It was almost like my own son being given a terrible malady. … I remember thinking, 'Luke is so fit and healthy that if anyone can get through this, he can.'"
Leingang left the following morning for the appointment.
"As we drove through the night to get there, I just kept thinking I couldn't believe this was happening to our family," Colleen Leingang said. "We were scared. They didn't know what type of tumor it was prior to surgery so there was concern he may lose use of his right arm after surgery if they would have to cut nerves to remove the tumor."
They returned to Mayo at the end of June 2012 for Luke's surgery. The surgery was successful, but he could no longer participate in contact sports, including football. Since he couldn't join the team with his friends, he started lifting weights to get his arm stronger so he could play basketball and baseball again.
"We felt very lucky once the worst of it was over, and Luke was getting back to himself. Life felt 'normal' again," Colleen Leingang said.
Luke Leingang eventually got back on track with sports.
"I missed most of my 2012 summer baseball season," Luke Leingang said. "I was lucky enough to come back and play in regionals that same summer. I was out for around two months."
Vanderpan, his coach, reflected on Luke Leingang's ability to move on with life.
"I know his friends miss him on the football field, but this event has given Lukey a chance to do other things and broaden his outlook on life," Vanderpan said. "He's going to be OK now, and we are all happy for that."
Now Luke Leingang gets an MRI every two years to send to Rochester, Minn. There, the MRI is checked to see if anything is growing back or if something is wrong with the tumor site.
"To this day, words cannot express how thankful we are to the doctors and nurses who cared for him at Mayo and the wonderful care he received from Dr. McDonough," Colleen Leingang said. "Also, the support we received from our family and friends was absolutely incredible. I will never forget it."
For more information about Leingang's sugery, visit caringbridge.org and search LukeLeingang.
A. Leingang sits outside Mayo clinic in between appointments. "My life hasn't changed a whole lot. The only difference is that I can't do contact sports anymore," Leingang said.
B. Leingang has a scar from the surgery. "We did not expect to be what it actually was," Leingang said. His surgery took place June 20, 2012.
C. Leingang stands with his parents, Colleen and Todd. "We were assured the tumor was most likely benign. That was an incredible relief," Colleen said. They took a walk the morning of his surgery.