My life was like any other 12 year old boy's life. I was very active in hockey, football and golf and loved hanging out with my friends. I started having back pain in September of 2010 but I was still playing football and had started hockey try-outs, so we thought the pain was just because of all of that. My Mom still took me to my doctor who then referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon. I got my appointment quickly and that doctor ordered an MRI which, a few days later, we found out showed a tumour in my spine. So we met with a spine surgeon who is also a good friend of ours, and he told us that the tumour had to come out within about 2-3 weeks. But that night I was in so much pain that we went to emergency. Another MRI showed that the tumour had burst so I went in for emergency surgery a day later. I had surgery on December 3, 2010, and we got the diagnosis on January 18, 2011. I really didn't feel a specific way when I found out I had cancer; I guess I just didn't understand what it was. I remember worrying about my hair falling out.
My treatment lasted eight months to the day (February 1, 2011 - October 1, 2011). I know I was lucky because I was able to keep on track pretty good. Mostly it was the nausea that got to me, and I did lose quite a bit of weight. I had to have an NG tube and then a GT tube, which I hated, but it helped put the weight going back on. I think I just coped because I knew I had no choice and I was able to put my mind to getting through the nausea. You get in a routine where you know what to expect, and you just have to prepare for it. My parents knew that while the chemo was dripping in I needed everyone to be quiet and still, and I would just lay there and focus on getting through it. I felt closer to some of my friends throughout my treatment. A lot of them really supported me and wanted to visit me in the hospital, but I really never felt like seeing anyone when I was in the hospital.
I think I recovered very quickly. After leaving the hospital on October 1, 2011, I was back at school pretty much full time and started practicing with my hockey team right away. I was not allowed to play in games right away because of the hitting involved in hockey, but by the middle of December I couldn't wait anymore so my doctor gave me the go ahead to start playing in games. I was very happy being back on the ice and in the action. I continue to do physical therapy, mostly to stretch out my lower back and hamstrings.
My life feels just the way it did before I was diagnosed. I was happy I was able to complete Grade 8, and I also ended up top scorer for our hockey team even though I only played 12 of the 22 games. We have done a lot of travelling since my treatment ended which has been great. My family has not made any changes really, except I think we live our lives feeling more happy and grateful than ever before. I really don't think about having had cancer and I do not consider it part of my identity. I know for my parents this experience was really awful and still is. I have to go for scans every 3 months and I know that is very hard on them.
Thoughts and Hints for New Patients
I think not knowing what to expect is good because it makes you just deal with what happens one day at a time. If a friend of mine was diagnosed with a sarcoma, I would tell them I am here for them and that they will get through it just like I did.
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