LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Less than a year ago, LAPD Officer Marcial Cruz agonized he’d never be on patrol again.
Doctors had removed a tumor on the bottom of his left foot. When it turned out to be cancer they were forced to amputate.
“I get this terrible call from the doctor telling me, ‘You know what, I have some really bad news for you: you have cancer. It’s very aggressive and I have to amputate your foot,” the veteran officer said.
In January, the 38-year-old underwent the procedure and the recovery was not easy.
“The horrendous pain of putting my leg down the side of the bed, and feeling the blood rush. It was so painful,” Cruz said.
Cruz fought through the pain, determined to not let his disability prevent him from returning to duty, which he said would not be behind a desk.
“‘No, I’m going to do this. I’m going to get back on patrol.’ And, that was one of the motivating things,” he said.
He started walking, two miles at a time, with crutches: “As painful as it was, I took it upon myself to get out there as much as I could and go on some pretty long walks.”
The next hurdle would be learning how to walk with a prosthetic foot. It was specially designed with the same tough material used in bullet-proof vests.
With his new foot, Cruz said he got into the best shape of his life so he could prove he could get back out in the field.
“I think one of the biggest issues with any form of difficulty of this nature is the mental aspect. If I would have been doubtful, fearful of not achieving what I wanted, I think that would have had a significant impact on what I was going to accomplish,” the officer said.
But he still had to prove his physical ability to a city doctor.
“The city doctor put me through a set of tests which included bending, kneeling, walking on tip toes, running — for sure a lot of running,” he said.
Six months after losing his left foot, Officer Cruz was handed a certificate showing he had passed the department’s physical tests with flying colors. And he was immediately reinstated back to full-duty.
Cruz has been back in the field for more than a month. His captain said Cruz proves his disability is not a setback.
“If you look at him, there is no way you can tell. Any job we ask any officer, he is the first to jump and take that assignment, to take on the responsibility,” Captain Rafael Ramirez said.
Cruz said he is doing what he was born to do and hopes his journey can inspire others.
“Don’t give up. Stay positive. As bad as the situation may be, there is hope. You have to fight, whatever challenge comes, no matter how big it is,” the officer said. “I’m here living the dream again.”