September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
"Obstacles are put in your way to see if what you want is really worth fighting for", Arnav Krishna.
There have been many difficult obstacles that I have had to pass to get to where I am now. Some of them have been little such as taking an exam or catching the common cold, and some not so much. One in particular has had a real, big effect on my life. This obstacle was strong, and persistent, and most of all aggressive. On August 11, 2016, I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my left calf called osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a rare cancer that mostly affects teens between the ages of twelve and twenty-one. Around 400 people are affected by this disease each year. It is very aggressive and, if not found early, can be fatal.
Before I was diagnosed with this fatal disease, I was an avid track cyclist. Many of my team members are world champions, and I was on track to be just like them. When I first started to feel pain in my leg, I was training for Junior Nationals. I had a slight limp and, since I was training almost four to six hours a day, I just thought that my muscles were sore and didn't pay much attention to it. It was not until I had a massage done that I knew something was off. The pain became continuous and, after a lot of muscle pain medicine, I shook it off and went on to compete in Nationals. Unfortunately, I did not do as well as I had hoped, and even afterwards when I was not training, the pain was getting worse. The next day, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with this horrible disease. When I first found out I was shocked. I would have never thought that I, of all people, would get cancer. I was healthy, fit, and a completely normal kid. Being told that I had cancer was a lot to process. The original doctor that diagnosed me told me that my leg was going to get amputated. Fearing that I would not have a leg again, my family and I frantically looked for better options. Living in the Northeast was a boon because there are many great medical institutions nearby. This really broadened our options. After hours of research, we settled in on a decision. We decided to go to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. They have a specialist surgeon in limb sparing procedures, and he figured out a way to save my leg. Overall, I was to have chemotherapy (chemo), an extensive surgery, and then some follow up chemo.
To get through the first few chemotherapies, I talked to my team's sports psychologist and came up with the mantra Relentless Positivity. I carried this mantra throughout, and it really helped me get through this tough time. The first few chemos were really hard. I was constantly getting sick and started to associate nausea with the strangest things such as hand sanitizer or tissues. Thanks to my mantra, I got through this tough time and tried to see the positive things even as few as they were. One after another, I took chemo after chemo, and just pushed through it. After what felt like an eternity, on November 30th, I had my surgery. It was a complex sixteen-hour surgery. It consisted of the surgeon cutting the cancerous part of the bone out and replacing it with the right leg's fibula, a donor bone, and a stainless-steel plate. After all of this was done, they stitched me up together with 63 stitches along with some internal ones (Yes, I counted!). The follow-up chemos were worse and, to add on top of that, I had a brace that kept my leg straight and was immobile in a wheelchair. I took it one day at a time and day-by-day, I was getting better. When I finally got the brace off, it was the best feeling in the world! Slowly with the help of physical therapy, I started to recover. Post-surgery chemo took place right after, and I finally got done with all three phases on April 30th, 2017.
Cancer has taught me many things. It has taught me to appreciate what I have and enjoy the simple things in life. Since I was in the hospital so much, I was so grateful when I got to come back home for one night and was able to sleep in my own bed. Coming home was the best part actually, and was what kept me going, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It has also taught me the value of friendship. Through all of this many of my friends visited me, and I had a great time when they would come over. They gave me hope and kept me positive even in the darkest of times. We would often talk for hours and play games in the game room. Cancer has also made me thankful for everything and everyone that has affected my life. A good example of this would be the nurses. Many of the nurses don't get paid much, and they do what they do because they love it. They, many times, work twelve-hour shifts and often cover up to three patients. I am very grateful for all of their help and company as they would all have great stories.
In all, it's been a long, tough journey, but I am glad that I am on the mend. Cancer has made me into the person that I am now which is a lot stronger, braver, compassionate and, above all, appreciative. It has made me grateful for all of life's gifts and has taught me many life lessons that I will never forget. It has taught me to be positive even in the darkest of times. As Michael Jordan once said, "Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turnaround and give up, figure out how to climb it."