Team Paonessa My Cancer Story — Nestor Paonessa

My story begins at one of the strongest and most exciting points in my entire life: spring of 2015. In March I had just completed my first two ultras as part of Bull City Running’s “Tough as Trails” series, the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40-miler and Mountains-to-Sea Trail 50K. My wife, Ashley, and I had hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru for my 34th birthday in May. We were getting ready to close on our dream home. There were lots of personal achievements, one big bucket list trip checked off, and arguably in the best physical shape of my life. You could say I was definitely on a “high” entering the summer of 2015.

That’s when the headaches started, food tasted “funny,” my vision became double, rotated, and tilted. Out of nowhere, my vision (and my life) literally got turned on its side, and things would never be the same again. Thinking I had an eye problem, I visited my optometrist, who referred me to a retina specialist, who referred me to a neuro-ophthalmologist at Duke Eye Center. To find out what was causing my left eyeball to rotate, the doctor ordered an MRI, scheduled for noon on June 26th; we were supposed to close on our new home at 5pm that day! At 2pm the phone call came: the MRI revealed a “mass” on my right thalamus—go straight to the emergency room. That’s when the story gets weird.

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