Stroke, cancer can't keep skater off rink

Monday, December 10, 2001

AURORA, Ill. -- Harold Cadie is learning to roller skate -- again.

"I'm not an easy giver-upper," Cadie, 73, said recently, and he's out to prove that statement true.

The Belvidere resident's last night out roller skating was eight years ago, the evening before his cancer surgery. It was a regular night of skating, just like every week. He didn't think it would be his last, and he hopes it won't.

That's why, on Monday mornings, Harold wakes up at 7:30 a.m. and climbs out of bed. His wife, Nyla, is a nurse, which helps. She dresses Harold. She gives him his medicine. Then they drive an hour from their home in Belvidere to the Aurora Skate Center. Harold does leg lifts there and shifts his weight from side to side to work his ankle. Then he takes his skating lesson.

On Thursdays, they do it all again.

Harold Cadie had a stroke only hours after his colon cancer surgery in 1993; it left him paralyzed on one side. He can't lift his left arm or his left leg.

But he really wants to skate.

He grew up in Cortland, where there was nothing else for kids to do but go to the drive-in or go skating. So he'd hitchhike or walk the railroad tracks five miles to DeKalb, where the rink was. He went seven nights a week.

Later, during World War II, he'd find rinks in whichever town the Navy stationed him.

Harold and Nyla met 10 years ago. The couple's sons introduced them, and then they went skating.

Setback after setback

Harold spent 100 days in the hospital after the stroke. After a long ordeal of physical therapy, he learned to walk again.

Another year passed before Harold broke his hip on a rain-drenched sidewalk. Once more, Harold had to learn to walk. He had a walker for two weeks, and then the therapist took it away and gave him a cane instead.

After each setback, Harold's first question to the doctor had always been this: "Can I skate again?"

"It's your leg," the doctor said. "And it's your hip. Skate all you want. Just don't break it again."

So Harold got a man named Bob Gormley to give him lessons, got the Aurora Skate Center to let him practice twice a week.

Harold's friend and fellow skater, Don Marshall, took an interest in the project. Harold had a metal walker he no longer used; Don took it to his son, a welder, and had four wheels put on it at the bottom. Then he added a left handle and a clamp to tether Harold's left leg and keep it from moving out from under him.

It worked. Strapped in the walker, pushing off with his good leg, Harold could roll all the way around the rink. Push, push, glide. When he'd coasted to a stop on two skates and four walker wheels, he'd push again. Push, push, glide.

Soon he'd worked his way up to two times around the rink. Then three. Then four.

Marshall fractured his pelvis and punctured his lungs in a car crash in 1990. He spent two months on his back. Afterward, to get in shape again, he'd come to the skate center in the morning and practice.

Marshall wanted to help someone else, so now he walks along on Harold's left side, ready to catch Harold if he needs it. Nyla and Don follow on Harold's right.

Harold is learning again.

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