April 16, 2019

by Brittany Alvarado

While she makes things look easy now, it wasn’t too long ago where Jordan was told that she would never be able to lift or be active for a long time.

For April’s SPECTRUM athlete of the month, I want to introduce you to Jordan Evans. Most of you probably have not met her, as she is an early riser and attends Bobby’s 6am sessions. Anyone who has the discipline and determination to wake up for a 6am workout already amazes me, but there is more to Jordan’s story that wows me. One look at Jordan and you can see the strength she posses with her strong stature. She works hard and lifts heavy, like super heavy. She could probably deadlift and/or bench press me. 

While she makes things look easy now, it wasn’t too long ago where Jordan was told that she would never be able to lift or be active for a long time.  

In 2017, Jordan had months worth of nagging back pain that would not go away. In her mind she thought it was just normal aches from working out … until one day it wasn’t. 

“Thanksgiving Day, I was holding my niece, when I felt a sharp tweak in my back. I froze and thought I had thrown my back out. I tried to roll out on a foam roller to release the tension, but then I heard a click and went down. I was on the floor for two hours and later that night I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t move and couldn’t breathe without intense pain.”

After experiencing this excruciating pain, Jordan’s mom drove her to an emergency clinic to see if they could find her some relief. She had a CT scan done and received results that she was not expecting. Doctors discovered a black mass on her L5 that had eaten 3/4 of her vertebrae and broke her back. They couldn’t believe she was able to walk or even speak after seeing the scans. 

A month went by with many specialist visits, but no sign of relief. 

“I was given a giant back brace which made me look like a storm trooper. This had to be worn at all times including when I slept, due to the fact that the tumor caused a break so close to my spinal cord, any movement could cause it to be severed.”

On December 21, Jordan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, which is cancer that starts in the bones. She was labeled as inoperable by one of the best hospitals in Florida, which was very disheartening. 

“I had to move back into my mother’s house, so that she could help me with my day to day activities. I required a bed rail, walker and medication every few hours,” Jordan said.

“It was tough and I became depressed. Along with being inoperable, I was not approved for the new trial FDA drug that would be one shot a month for the rest of my life, nor for radiation due to my spinal cord. Basically I was a sitting duck.”

February 24, 2018 was when Jordan would have her first surgical attempt to remove the tumor. Prior to that, she learned that she would have to have 2 of her ribs removed, so they could access her spine from both the side and back. She had to fly out to the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, NC because no other doctors would agree to take her case.  

“The first surgery was an arterial embolization, so they would go through my groin and cut off blood flow to the major artery that sits behind your diaphragm.”

That surgery attempt failed. 

A few days later, on February 28th, Jordan was getting prepared for the biggest surgery of her life. She was overwhelmed with all of the surgeons she was surrounded by, but they were confident in success this next time around. This massive surgery was supposed to be a max of 12 hours long. 

“At the 12 ½ hour mark, my family was anxious with no news. 13 hour mark, my family had received a call no one ever wants. Doctors told them something went wrong.” 

“I received multiple blood transfusions in the course of surgery. My heart had stopped, I couldn’t tell you what they gave me, but I have a scar on my neck where a metal iv went directly to my heart that they used to administer medication to save me.”

The surgery took 17 hours to complete, but while it was finished, Jordan was still not out of the dark. 

“I stayed in ICU for about a week, I had chest tubes all around my ribs that were draining for the first 5 days. I had to lay flat 24/7. It was horrible.”

The first night Jordan was in ICU, she went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived with paddles. She was eventually stabilized and was able to leave the hospital after a week. Jordan stayed at her sister’s house in North Carolina for a few days, but was still facing many complications. She faced death another time.

“I was trying to be independent and walk to the bathroom by myself. My mom came up to check on me and all I remember was holding the door frame, everything turning all white, loud rings in my ears and me bobbing my head back and forth on the doorframe.”

“I was told my color immediately dropped from my body and my dad came running just in time to catch me as I fainted. All I remember is being woken up by paramedics on the phones with my surgeons, them hanging an IV bag on the curtain rail, and an AED attached to me.”

Jordan defied death again and grew stronger and stronger as the days went on. 

“Once I was back in Orlando, I was told I wouldn’t walk on my own for months, I wouldn’t be able to jog for at least a year, I would never be able to touch my toes or tie my shoes by myself. This only gave me more fuel to hurry up and get my life back on track.”

That’s where SPECTRUM came in. 

Jordan worked tirelessly with Dr. Rachel Jakubowski to get her life back on track, which she admits she wanted to do full speed ahead.

“Rachel began working with me every other day for the first month. This included gentle manipulation and cupping. She finally allowed my back to loosen up enough to let me sleep a few hours without freezing. She then started working out my scar tissues.”

“I have about a 10 inch incision on my ribs, and four 4 inch incisions down my spine. This would slowly move into 2 time a week thing where we would begin small exercises. I would work on being able to get my body up off of the floor by myself, to being able to be on all fours without any pain, to spinal mobility techniques.”

“Rachel was pure gold to me. Any ailment, she could seemingly make me become either 75-100% pain free.”

Once Dr. Jakubowski gave Jordan the thumbs up, she was ready to get back to her training routine with Bobby.

“Bobby is the reason I am where I am today. He would personally check in on me via text messages, ask me where I am sore and how I am feeling. He wouldn’t allow me to come in more than twice a week. Poor guy, had to pick me off of the floor a few times when I couldn’t help myself.”

Jordan faced many frustrating days where she had to humble herself. It wasn’t easy getting back into things and remembering what she was able to do prior to her surgeries. She admits feeling pathetic many times, but Bobby continued to reassure her that things would continue to get easier and better. 

Along with Bobby, Jordan found an inspiring workout partner in client, Emily Parsons. Emily’s encouraging words and actions pushed Jordan each day. They still continue to be partners in workouts to this day. 

“The camaraderie I have found at SPECTRUM is unparallel to any other facility I have been a part of. Rachel and Bobby are both one of a kind. They are someone that will be imprinted into my brain forever.”

“I am 6ft tall and coming out of surgery I weighed 224 pounds. I am currently walking at 170. I am one year into remission, and I am both physically and mentally stronger than I was before.”

Photography by Brittany Alvarado.

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