In 1991, Patrick McDonald lost the use of his legs in an armored personnel transport accident while serving in the U.S. Army in South Korea. Determination, a positive attitude and participation in sports helped him adapt to his new situation. During and after rehabilitation he took part in basketball, golf, swimming, cycling, shooting and table tennis. Then in 2008 he discovered curling.
In short order, he became a top competitor in the sport, which he says is like “shuffleboard and chess on ice.” He has competed on the U.S. Open Team and U.S. Paralympic Team. He and his wife and two children moved from California to Madison to enable him to more fully pursue his sport.
Last year, McDonald was diagnosed with a malignant tumor between his soft palate and sinuses. Given his conditioning and age—he was 48 at the time—he was able to tolerate a more aggressive radiation and chemotherapy regimen than many patients. Halfway through treatment, he needed the aid of a feeding tube when severe sore throat made eating virtually impossible. “I’m the type of guy who thinks he can power through anything. I was on fence about getting the feeding tube, but I figured the best way to go through this was to listen to the doctor,” McDonald says.
His weight went from 215 to 160 pounds—much of it muscle—and everyday activities became difficult. Since then, he has worked to regain his strength. His voice is still a bit raspy, but the feeding tube is out, he can eat all his favorite foods and he’s starting to regain the weight he lost. “My energy level on a daily basis is pretty much back to normal, but sports are pretty taxing,” McDonald says.
Nevertheless, he got back to curling soon after treatment. “I ended up playing four games a day for three consecutive days. On the second day, my whole upper body was sore. It was a hard event, but I had a teammate, so I couldn’t give up,” he says. “We persevered and ended up winning the event.”
McDonald is bringing this same resolve to The Ride, a bicycle benefit for cancer research at the University of Wisconsin. He learned about The Ride from Dr. Randy Kimple, his radiation oncologist at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, and thought it would be a good way to give back to the people who have helped him, raise awareness about cancer and support others who are going through their own cancer journeys.
A former paratriathlete, McDonald has begun riding his handcycle again to get back in shape after his cancer treatment and hopes to complete the 100-mile route of The Ride on Sept. 17.
McDonald is optimistic about the future. He’s looking forward to getting back to international curling competition, including the Paralympics, and being around to see his children grow. “I’m just going about my life in a positive way as a loving husband and father and hope to continue living a happy life, free of cancer,” he says.
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