Note: Ian’s story was shared by his mother, Kay.
My son, Ian, was injured in a football game when he was a sophomore in high school. His lower leg hurt enough that the athletic trainer suggested we see a doctor. Luckily the doctor took an extra step and took an x-ray. The x-ray showed a dark spot on Ian’s right tibia, which after biopsy was revealed as osteosarcoma. Ian began chemotherapy four days after being diagnosed on September 21, 2010. Further tests showed that Ian had spots on both lungs which indicated that the cancer had metastasized. In December 2010, Ian had limb salvage surgery to remove the tumor and replace it with a cadaver bone. The biopsy of the tumor showed that it was a very aggressive tumor and the chemo was not impacting it much at all. At that time we were not sure if Ian would graduate from high school. He had a thoracotomy in January of 2011 to remove some of the spots from his right lung for biopsy. Thankfully the biopsy showed that the spots were not cancer. Between September 2010 and May 2011 Ian had six surgeries and 16 chemotherapy appointments. It was a very difficult time as the chemotherapy was destroying every cell in his body, making him terribly sick and causing side effects that were horrendous; and the extensive surgeries he had to have caused extreme pain and discomfort. He spent most of his time in the hospital. He did his schoolwork on his own in between treatments and surgeries when he could muster the energy and was feeling up to it.
Prior to his freshman year of college Ian had surgery to repair some of the ligaments that were damaged to increase the stability of his leg, so in the Fall of 2011 he went to college on crutches.
The turmoil that our family was thrown into was monumental. It cannot be understood what hearing the words “Your child has cancer” has unless it has happened to you. It cannot be understood what getting cancer has on a teen unless it has happened to you. Between Ian’s determination, the wonderful doctors, and the wonderful palliative care we received, Ian is a six year osteosarcoma survivor! He graduated from college on May 13 with a degree in Biology and minor in Economics. On June 1 he began a Research Associate position at the University of Utah- Salt Lake City. He will be doing pediatric sarcoma research!!!
Words of Wisdom: Ian’s positive, can do attitude was the most impactful in getting himself and the rest of our family through his treatment, and everything that went with it. We have 3 other children, so as parents we had all we could do to keep functioning and keep it together for our entire family. I learned that continually advocating for Ian and assuring his needs were met during his treatment was crucial.
Our friends and community embraced our family in an unprecedented way. They did fundraisers, they cleaned our house, they mowed our lawn and shoveled our driveway, they delivered meals, they sent cards—hundreds of them, they prayed and prayed, they did blood drives, they were amazing. It was not easy to accept so much help, but we were overwhelmed so we had no choice, and we were, and still are so incredibly grateful for every single thing that was done for us. It all made such a difference. My words of wisdom are to not be afraid to ask for help and not feel guilty or feel like a failure for needing it. People want to help.
Most importantly–never give up HOPE.
Role of the Sarcoma Foundation of America: We had no idea what osteosarcoma was and had never heard the word before September 21, 2010. We are very grateful for the SFA for what they do in making others aware of this terrible disease and most importantly raising money for sarcoma research. As a researcher as an undergrad, and advocate, Ian understands the detrimental affects that gaps in funding have on research efforts and the crucial need for continuous streams of funding for research projects.