At first, Cory Norton thought his pain was just part of the same pain he had ever since he broke his back in 2008 during a fire department training session. Pain, after all, was part of Norton’s life after that fall during a drill on a rope system.

For seven years, Norton lived with that pain, undergoing a lumbar fusion along the way. He ignored it the best he could. Norton learned to live with the pain.

Then his leg went numb.

“I thought I should have it checked out,” Norton said as he took a break from steering a fire truck July 13 at the Pull for Cory fundraiser in Big Bear Lake. “They found a mass on my spine right on top of the fusion. They thought it was a hematoma.”

But it wasn’t a hematoma. Tests results from the mass removed from Cory’s spine during surgery showed it was epithelioid sarcoma, a rare, slow-growing type of soft tissue cancer that affects mainly children and young adults before the age of 30. Norton’s diagnosis came at age 29.

On July 13, firefighters from around the Southland joined the Big Bear community to raise funds for Norton’s cause — epithelioid sarcoma research. Teams pulled a Big Bear Fire Department fire truck in a timed contest at the Convention Center at Big Bear Lake.

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