GREENVILLE — Retired Greenville Firefighter Tim Ridenour should learn whether or not he is cancer-free on Tuesday after he undergoes another MRI.
In the meantime, the 56-year-old is living life day by day with a positive attitude, after having been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a fast-growing tumor, on Sept 30, 2013.
“He does chemo every other week at home,” wife Mary Ann said.
“It’s seven days on and seven days off,” he said. “I wear a mask [in public] to protect myself from potential viruses.”
Mary Ann said two years ago, her husband went to the hospital with what he thought was a headache. She said he had a bad migraine for two days and said it was the worst headache he ever had.
“They took a cat scan at Upper Valley Medical Center and said there was a softball-size tumor at the side of his brain,” she said. “He was sent to Miami Valley Hospital for an operation. They said it’s like a hand grenade going off in the brain.”
According to Mary Ann, the first doctor basically told Tim to go home and die and that he would be lucky if he lived six months.
“I said I want another opinion, so we went to Ohio State and they said they could do more for him,” said Mary Ann, who will mark her 54th birthday on Dec. 27.
It was then that he was given radiation using a mask and started on chemotherapy treatments.
“When we went up, it was in the trial stages,” Mary Ann said. “He didn’t get in on the trial. It was just chemotherapy treatments then. The trial was the NovoTTF. They had so much success with it.”
However, following an MRI in October 2014, it was FDA-approved and he became eligible.
Mary Ann said her husband’s tumor is not solid.
“It’s gel-like,” she said. “They removed most of it at Miami Valley and in 2014 saw that it had changed. We told them from from the beginning that we wanted the most aggressive treatment. We were going to give it the fight of our lives.”
Tim’s second surgery took place at OSU.
“Dr. Elder is so wonderful,,” Mary Ann said of her husband’s surgeon. “I asked the doctor if he prayed, and he said he did. I just needed to know that.”
She went on, “One time we went up to the Maria Stein Shrine of Holy Relics, walked around the grounds and meditated. Then I saw the name Archbishop Elder at the bottom of a wall this sign. And, then there was a big rainbow in the sky on the day of his surgery.”
It all seemed to come together, when Elder came out of the operating room all smiles.
“He found scar tissue and fluid building up. The tumor had not grown,” they were told.
However, Tim did fill up with cerebral spinal fluid which formed a bubble on the side of his head, and he couldn’t walk because it affected his balance. The swelling didn’t go down quick enough, so they put a shunt in his head in December to take the fluid down and drain into his stomach.”
The concerned wife immediately asked the doctor if that would cause the cancer to spread to other parts of his body, and he explained that Tim’s is a primary brain cancer, not a secondary, which means that it would stay in the brain.
“The shunt took care of it,” she said.
Tim, who has undergone three surgeries since his diagnosis, is hoping to have no more.
“He has to wear the NovoTTF 75 percent of the time to be effective,” she said.
Medical officials are watching those figures via a remote download.
“They send us a new one, and we send the old one back,” she said.
“I’m wearing it up to 90 percent,” Tim said.
“It has to be unplugged when he showers and when I change the arrays,” Mary Ann said.
In his recuperation, Tim has made wire angels with butterflies to give to people to pray for him.
“People tell me the butterflies are my mission now,” Tim said.
The Ridenours are true to their faith. They belong to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville and St. Henry Catholic Church, where he attended when he lived there for awhile. They also attend Sacred Heart Church in McCartyville, as the priest there is the one who does healing masses at Maria Stein.
“God put so many wonderful people in our lives,” Mary Ann said.
Tim’s firefighting career began in the U.S. Navy.
“I got out of the Navy after six years as a firefighter on board a ship,” he said. “In my reserve time, I helped develop a fire school in Cincinnati, Scarlet Oak Vocational, then I moved to Troy. While I was in Troy, I took the test here [Greenville] to see how I would do and I passed. I had the second highest score and they offered me the job.”
He accepted and, as required then, Ridenour and his wife moved to Greenville.
They were married in 1982.
“We’ve been a team for 33 wonderful years,” he said.
The couple has two sons, Christopher, 31, who lives in Troy and works at Meier’s, and Kevin, 25, a chef living in LaGrange, Kentucky.
“They check up on their dad a lot,” said Mary Ann, who is from Cincinnati.
The couple’s lives crossed paths on a blind date set up by mutual friends in Cincinnati.
“He proposed to me a week later” she recalled. “Then we eloped on my lunch break at a meat packing company where I was doing accounting in Covington, Kentucky. We applied for our marriage license on Friday and got married on Monday. I went back to work and he went back to Troy.”
All of this was done in secret from their families. The reason for the elopement, she said, was because every time they would set a wedding date, his ship would be leaving.
“That was during trouble in Beirut,” he said. “We supplied two battle ships, the Iowa and New Jersey, and shortly thereafter I retired from them permanently.”
Tim, who worked six years voluntarily for the Casstown Fire Department, was also a trainer during his military stint in the reserves for the fire department.
How is Tim’s morale been in this cancer-fighting ordeal?
“I’ve been positive,” he replied. “I don’t let it get me down. Mary Ann slows me down. She won’t let me get 3 inches off the ground to trim trees or climb ladders.”
It was noted, though that after his first surgery, he got out his big snow blower and cleaned all 13 of the neighbors driveways, 13 of them.
Tim, who wears the NovoTTF all day long and then at night plugs it into a wall, was asked what the growth is that is hanging out from the mask and he responded, “It’s my victory beard. As soon as I get cancer-free Mary Ann swill shave it off.”
They are also hoping it can be donated to perhaps something like Locks of Love.
“A lot has to do with attitude,” Mary Ann said. “He has gone to a psychologist.”
According to her, Tim has also been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) stemming from situations in the military. He served in the Mediterranean on a supply ship during his six years with the Navy. He was stationed in Norfolk, but traveled to such locations as Beirut, Lebanon, Spain, Israel, Greece, Sicily, Cuba, Portugal and Italy, and saw some things he will never forget.
“And, he was in Bethlehem at Christmas time in 1983,” Mary Ann said.
“It happened to be the port of call,” he said. “I was there about a week and we went on a lot of tours.”
Mary Ann has been right there with her husband during his fight with a deadly disease.
“We’ve learned a lot with the mask,” said Mary Ann. “And, I’ve learned patient advocacy.”
She, herself, had brain surgery a year before her husband became ill. That was in August 2012.
“I had chiari I malformation,” she said. “My brain was too big for my head. They took part of the skull out back to make more room. I lost 5o pounds, and it caused irregular heartbeat. I was tested everywhere.”
Then, it was Mary Ann herself who came up with the diagnosis first, after she compared her MRI with research on the Internet. And, she let the medical professionals know what her thoughts were, and she was right.
“I had taken pharmacy tech schooling,” she said.
She went to the Mayfield Clinic in Cincinnati and was laid up for two weeks after the surgery.
Mary Ann said her husband was just as caring to her in her time of illness as she has been with him in his health woes.
Thus far, there have been two benefits held for him; a golf outing on Sept. 12 and a chicken barbecue on Oct. 11.