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Lee: Post Falls’ Jeff Hinz thankful for broken leg

Thu., Dec. 12, 2013

When is breaking your leg a good thing?

If you ask Post Falls head football coach Jeff Hinz he’ll tell you he’s fortunate he broke his on Thanksgiving morning.

Hinz, 42, was walking around his home that morning when his left femur snapped in half.

Upon arriving at the hospital, doctors performed initial tests trying to determine how his leg broke. They discovered a plum-sized tumor where the bone had snapped.

A rod was inserted from his hip to his knee to connect the bones. Hinz, a government teacher, must be at home for eight to 12 weeks to allow the leg to heal.

There was this bigger issue, though, to tackle. While in the hospital, doctors did tests to see if he had any spots elsewhere in his body.

They thought he had a spot in the other hip and on the spine. But a PET scan Tuesday ruled those out.

He got the official diagnosis Tuesday. He has a form of adenocarcinoma.

“The layman’s term is it’s a nonsmoker’s form of lung cancer,” Hinz said Wednesday morning. “It moved from my lung to my upper left leg.”

The spot in his lung is the size of a quarter.

Hinz had been experiencing pain in his left hip for about three weeks before his leg broke. Sometimes the pain trickled down his leg and it felt like a charley horse in a muscle.

Ten days before the break, Hinz went to an urgent care facility and the doctor missed the tumor on the X-ray.

“Had he saw it, it probably would have kept me from breaking the leg,” Hinz said.

Between the visit to the urgent care facility and Thanksgiving, Hinz saw his family doctor.

“I told him about the X-ray and he suggested I have some physical therapy after Thanksgiving,” Hinz said.

Hinz understands that he’s fortunate, in an odd way, that the spot in the lung triggered the cancer spreading to his left leg and deteriorating the bone to the point of it breaking.

“No cancer is good, obviously” he said. “If the bone hadn’t broken who knows what would have happened. It’s not all warm and fuzzy and roses. But it’s something I can live through and deal with. It’s not a chronic disease or something. It’s about the same as winning the lottery. I just won the wrong lottery.”

Hinz said doctors are optimistic.

“There are three different strands of the type of cancer I have,” Hinz said. “Fortunately this is the most treatable strand there is. That’s the good news I got (Tuesday).”

The treatment plan calls for a pill regimen that targets the lung cancer.

“They’ll do another PET scan in three months and re-evaluate,” Hinz said.

He’ll also undergo radiation targeted in the hip area.

“I start that (today,)” he said. “The positive is there have been advancements in medicine with this type of lung cancer that gives me a chance to live a long, normal, healthy life.”

He’s grateful for all the expressions of support. The Saturday morning following surgery, Coeur d’Alene football coach Shawn Amos, who is going through chemotherapy to counter the cancer he’s dealing with, visited along with longtime friend Ron Nelson, CdA’s offensive coordinator. Hinz, a CdA High graduate, was touched by the visit.

Former University of Idaho coach Robb Akey also called Hinz.

Hinz expressed special thanks to his wife and kids. He waited until more definitive tests before going public with his situation.

“My wife has been great,” Hinz said, choking up for the first time in the interview. “I couldn’t have done this without her.

“I’m not going to lay around worrying about this. We’re going to attack it head on and try to get better.”

Sounds like a football coach.

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