ORLANDO, Fla. – As part of the News 6 morning team, Traffic Safety Expert Steven Montiero shares his experience on the roads as a Florida state trooper and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force with Central Florida viewers.
He’s typically a public person who shares his life with many, but it wasn’t until now that he decided to open up about a certain chapter: His run-in with cancer.
“When that started, I think the biggest thing to settle in was a -- and it takes a lot for me to say -- but, like, a quiet fear,” Montiero said.
In April of last year, as Central Florida experienced the first wave of COVID-19 cases, Montiero was hit with a sudden and unexpected illness that landed him in the hospital.
“I feel I’m this healthy, go-getting, 100-mile-an-hour person, military, law enforcement, here at News 6, and it’s go, go, go and next thing you know, I’m on my face,” he said.
Not only did he have fears related to what might have been going on with his health, he said the hospital setting was especially intimidating because of the climate at that time due to COVID-19.
“I never had seen nurses caregivers in almost full hazmat suits. You’re talking from the tip of their toes to the top of their heads -- completely covered. Gas mask looks, not just this N95 stuff we talk about, but full-blown ventilator masks just for transport on an ambulance, bringing you into the hospital,” he said.
His care team at AdventHealth Altamonte found double lung bacterial pneumonia, but after a CT scan of his chest, something was revealed in his right kidney.
“Just like in my cop world, my military time, I expect to encounter the most dangerous possible situations, hoping that none of it happens, but in this case, it was cancer,” Montiero said.
And it was discovered because of what he thought were symptoms of COVID-19.
“There was something (concerning) when (the doctor) told me. You don’t show me a scan like that and say, ‘You have a golf-ball sized tumor on the bottom of your kidney,’ and you expect anybody to think it’s just OK,” he said.
Dr. Steve Williams, a urologist and robotic surgeon at AdventHealth, explained how he found Montiero’s tumor.
News 6 morning anchor and health reporter Kirstin O’Connor asked Williams if it was typical for someone showing signs of COVID-19 to be given a CT scan.
“You know, we were very early in the COVID epidemic and, you know, he had a lot of shortness of breath, they were not sure if this was typical COVID,” Williams said. “In fact, I think his COVID test was negative, and they did the CT scan to try to see if there was some other cause of his shortness of breath, and then this led to the finding of the tumor on the kidney,”
As his diagnosis sunk in, Montiero said he dealt with isolation, both physically and mentally, facing his situation without being able to have his loved ones beside him.
“(My mom) was the only person I was worried about. She’s been there from go, and to know, like, now she’s gotta’ worry about me, and she’s never had to worry about me,” he said.
Alone in the hospital, his lungs recovered.
But the next step, surgery on the tumor, would have to wait two months, something Montiero said terrified him.
“And I’m like, ‘So you want me to go back into the world that we don’t know where COVID’s at, and then you want me to come back in here for a procedure, where you’re going to open me up?’ It’s hard to trust somebody that you don’t know with your life,” Montiero said.
He says he had no choice but to be patient and cling to his faith.
As you may well know, Montiero is back at work and doing well, but he will share more details about his recovery tomorrow on News 6 and ClickOrlando.com.
Health resources during the pandemic
Trooper Steve would not have known about his condition if he hadn’t gone to the hospital after experiencing what he thought was symptoms of COVID-19. He’s now sharing his story in an effort to encourage others not to neglect their health needs because they’re afraid to visit a health care facility during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials have also warned against putting off necessary visits because it could allow someone’s condition to worsen over time. Florida doctors have said for months that the hospitals are “very, very safe.” You can read more about hospital safety during the pandemic here.
Telemedicine is also a great option for anyone who thinks they might need non-emergency medical attention and is still trying to limit in-person visits. Click here to find telehealth options in Central Florida.