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Friends, family rally around Marty Leverton as he deals with rare form of throat cancer
Marty Leverton figured the sore throat last December was a cold, but it wouldn’t go away.
He went to an urgent-care facility, where he was given something to numb the pain. Still, there was no relief.
His primary-care doctor told him he had a swelling in his neck; she sent him to an ear, nose and throat specialist – an otolaryngologist.
The doctor used a scope to examine Leverton’s throat, telling the Renton Police motor officer that yes, something is going on, said Jennifer Leverton, Leverton’s wife.
More trips followed to specialists, including to the University of Washington, along with long waits for appointments. There were more exams by scopes and ultrasound and a CT scan used to detect the presence of tumors.
And Leverton was slowly losing his voice.
Leverton is well known throughout the state as a master instructor for police officers who patrol on motorcycles. And he teaches the instructors who also give that training.
A decorated Renton Police officer for more than a decade, Leverton is a driving force in reducing driving while influenced by drugs or alcohol. He teaches classes at the police academy in how to enforce DUI laws.
Now, those who Leverton has taught and friends and family are rallying around him in his fight against cancer.
The entire Renton Police Department “has come together,” said Officer Wayne Blackard, to support the Levertons. Blackard and his wife Shelley have helped lead the fundraising efforts.
“He’s the utmost professional,” said Blackard of Leverton. “He’s extremely good at what he does.”
On July 31 Leverton received a phone call from a specialist at the University of Washington, who diagnosed Leverton with a rare form of throat cancer, chondrosarcoma of the cartilage that rings the trachea or windpipe.
“It’s crazy how they pull the pin on the hand grenade and toss it in the air,” said Jennifer Leverton. “That’s how we were left.”
A couple days later, the specialist tried to explain the cancer and the Levertons did their own internet research, Jennifer Leverton said.
According to Leverton, the UW offered two options: watch for six months to see whether the tumor grew or have surgery, which Jennifer described as radical and invasive. The surgical options could risk Leverton’s voice box – and his voice.
Marty Leverton met a surgeon from Boston, who was also a specialist in such surgical treatments. Using his phone, Leverton showed the surgeon the CT scan of the tumor. Jennifer said the Boston surgeon offered a surgical option that was less invasive, which made more sense, Jennifer said.
In making their decision the Levertons had to balance Marty’s quality of life, his pain and leaving the tumor in place for too long, Jennifer said.
“We are doing everything we can to save Marty’s voice,” she said.
On Oct. 11, the Boston surgeon, Dr. Steven M. Zeitels, performed the surgery endoscopically through Leverton’s mouth, which allowed him to remove as much or more of the tumor as other surgeries without jeopardizing the voice box, Jennifer said.
The surgery “went well,” Jennifer said.
Now, the Levertons are waiting again. But they’ve bought more time to save Marty’s voice.
In mid-January Leverton will return to Boston so that the surgeon can get a baseline for the size of the tumor. The 12-week wait is necessary so that scar tissue can dissolve and the surgeon can get an accurate measurement of the tumor.
If “everything is fine” after that visit, Leverton will undergo CT scans at the UW so that his doctors can monitor the size of the tumor, Jennifer said. If the tumor grows, he could face surgery through his neck to remove it.
The Boston surgeon doesn’t accept insurance, so the Levertons must pay for the entire cost of the surgery. There are the trips to Boston and all the other costs related to such medical care.
Already thousands of dollars have been raised to help defray Leverton’s medical bills. The goal is to raise about $50,000. There is a Cops with Cancer Dinner and Auction Saturday, Nov. 17, that will benefit the Cops with Cancer, which has provided financial support for the Levertons.
“Without these fundraisers we wouldn’t be able to afford another surgery,” she said.
The Levertons, who live in Covington, married in October 2000, but they’ve been together for 18 years.
They have two children, Amy, 5, and Lane 4.
“He is the funniest person I have ever met,” Jennifer says of her husband Marty.
A HELPING HAND
A fundraiser is planned for Saturday, Nov. 17, to help Renton Police Officer Marty Leverton in his fight against throat cancer.
The fundraiser at the Downtown Harley Davidson dealership in Renton is a Cops with Cancer Dinner and Auction to benefit the Kent-based Cops with Cancer, which has provided financial support for Leverton with his medical bills.
The dinner and auction is 5-10 p.m. at the dealership, 3715 East Valley Road, Renton.
Tickets are $30 each. Ticket information is available at http://team-marty.org or contact Wayne Blackard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets also may be available at the door
Leverton’s battle against cancer is told online at team-marty.org.