GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the past six months, #ImWithCraig has become a rallying cry for family and friends of Dr. Craig Alguire.
Saturday, his supporters will hold a post-race party in celebration of Alguire completing the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K race.
While the cardiologist and triathlete has been a Fifth Third River Bank Run regular for more than a decade, this year’s race has taken on new meaning.
In October, Alguire was exercising on a bicycle in his basement when he suddenly felt like he couldn’t talk.
“I started to try to say something and I was just stuttering for about 30 seconds. And I felt fine otherwise — I was still riding my bike, didn’t have any other sort of neurological effects. And so I got off my bike and all the sudden, it stopped,” Alguire explained.
The 39-year-old felt good enough to bike another mile before work.
“I went to my cardiology clinic and saw a half-days worth of patients. But on the last patient, it occurred again,” Alguire said.
He was rushed to the hospital. Although he again felt fine after the episode, a CT scan showed he was not.
“It did not show a bleed, but it showed a mass,” Alguire said.
Alguire said doctors ordered an MRI which confirmed it: Alguire almost certainly had brain cancer. The official diagnosis was glioblastoma multiform, which in most cases is terminal.
“I think they probably saw it on my face that I knew the prognosis,” added Alguire, who has four children.
Alguire said the average survival rate for patients with glioblastoma multiform is about 15-16 months; 90-95 percent of patients are dead within two years, he said. But there are cases of long-term survivors.
“I think at first it was overwhelming and we thought a lot about the future. And that much is just too much to think about,” said Alguire’s wife, Staci Alguire.
A week later, Alguire underwent brain surgery at the University of Michigan hospital. During most of the procedure, he was wide awake as doctors removed a golf ball size tumor.
“Once your brain is exposed they wake you back up, and I felt fine,” Alguire recounted. “It was amazing. My brain was exposed, they were poking around in my brain, but I could talk. I was fully aware of everything that was going on.”
As Alguire went through surgery, recovery and chemotherapy, friends and family showed their support by wearing Team Craig shirts, posting pictures tagged #ImWithCraig and following his cancer blog, “Gray Matters,” which has been viewed more than 100,000 times.
Alguire also began running and swimming again, training for the Fifth Third River Bank Run he had signed up for just three days before surgery.
Alguire said it’s nice to have a goal. His original plan was to walk or jog the 5K, but just six months after brain surgery, he now plans to run the 25K.
“I will be happy [with] just the fact that I was able to do it. And I think if I can run it hard, that’s just icing on the cake,” Alguire said.
Alguire said he feels so good, he may shoot for a personal record.
And while his prognosis remains precarious, he is part of a clinical study in Chicago, testing for new treatments for glioblastoma.
“Every day we wake up and choose to be happy and embrace the day and do the thing with our family that we want to do,” added Staci Alguire.
Online:Dr. Craig Alguire’s blog