With simple fall comes devastating diagnosis
McMinnville resident Joe Lagattuta was on his daily postal delivery route, encompassing Cook School, the Granary District, Lafayette Avenue and McDaniel Lane. In a muddy area in front of one of the homes, he slipped and fell.
He quickly picked himself up, feeling a little embarrassed, according to his wife, Tanya. Just a few months later, she said, she is preparing for his return home from the hospital to begin hospice care.
Tanya recalled the pain kept getting worse after the fall, but Joe kept working. When she finally got him to see a doctor, he discovered some deep tissue tears that would take some time to heal, plus what looked as if it might be a hernia.
A followup CT scan revealed that what looked like a hernia was actually a tumor. And to add to his misery, it turned out Joe had also fractured his pelvis.
At the beginning of March, Joe had a full PET scan. It showed his body had been engulfed with epithelioid rhabdomyosarcoma, a childhood cancer rarely seen in adults.
“Up to the point where he hurt his leg, he had no symptoms,” Tanya said. “The last thing you expect to hear is you have full-body cancer and there’s nothing they can do except for treatment for pain relief.”
He underwent a series of radiation treatments at Salem Hospital. The hope was to shrink the tumor.
Chemotherapy was discussed, but the doctor said it could do more harm then good, given his weakened state.
The couple married at 18 and had two children, Jacob and Brandon. Mac residents since 2006, they will be celebrating their 26th anniversary May 9.
Well-wishers can reach the Lagattutas at P.O. Box 1473, McMinnville, OR 97128.
“Everything seems very surreal still,” Tanya said. “It’s all been so quick.
“I feel like I’ve processed it, but I probably haven’t.”
She wipes away tears as she says of Joe, “He’s fighting it all the way.”
Tanya said that his co-workers and customers have been very generous with support.
Last Sunday, she said 25 people showed up to plant flowers, lay bark dust and set up their pond and fountain for the season. It was something that Joe would take a week of vacation to do every May.
Wednesday, two men came out to install a wheelchair ramp. Meanwhile, Lowe’s donated some plumbing equipment they needed.
“He really liked his job as a postman,” Tanya said. He appreciated his customers.
Several have stopped her to tell her he was their favorite mailman. They noted he liked wearing shorts, no matter the season.