Last year, a greeting at the door between Mark Anderson and Sanford Home Care Bismarck physical therapist Jan Zawitkowski wasn’t possible.
“So nice to see him up and about and the energy to come up and open the door is already a big accomplishment in itself,” Zawitkowski said. “A testament to his hard work and determination.”
A three-time cancer survivor, Mark has been through the ringer.
“Going on 11 years, three surgeries,” Mark said. “I never thought I’d ever make it through it.”
Bone cancer led to part of his pelvic bone, sciatic nerve and ligament in his right leg getting removed in 2019.
Miraculously, the avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan can still walk.
But a severe bout with COVID-19 in 2022 knocked him off his feet again.
“And you go home (from the hospital) and you’re like, I need assistance. I need help,” said Mark’s wife, Heather.
‘He went above and beyond’
Heather does everything she can for her husband of 26 years. The Andersons have also relied heavily on nurses and physical therapists from Sanford Health in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“This has been an ordeal. Like I said if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Mark said through tears.
The couple lives in a second-floor condo.
“So Jan came in after he had COVID in September,” Heather said. “He went above and beyond. He not only stayed longer but he’s like let’s accomplish this goal.”
The goal was to get Mark strong enough to traverse the stairs.
“He got me to do steps and there’s like 16 of them going up and down. I was never able to do steps before him,” Mark said.
“He got me strength that I never thought I had. He built me up.”
‘Opened up family time’
Proud of his patient’s progress, Zawitkowski is quick to share credit.
“This is exactly what we as therapists kind of hope for. We get patients that listen to what we tell them and listen to the advice and guidance we try to give. Ultimately, it’s all up to you because nothing gets done unless you actually do the work and it showed,” Zawitkowski said.
With renewed strength, Mark was even recently able to hold his great-niece Raya.
“I had to go up steps at their house to her and I got to see her and I held her for about two hours. So, Jan, unbelievable,” Mark said.
Heather adds, “It’s opened up family time, special time. That’s what life is about. You recover from cancer and you want to continue living.”
“Sanford has just been amazing.”
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