Thomas knows the exact date he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma—January 9th, 2018. That’s when his life changed forever. From what he thought was a knee sprain unexpectedly turned out to be cancer. Thomas is 16 years old, a 10th grader and has been playing basketball since the 2nd grade. He learned that winter day that he couldn’t return to playing basketball or other sports. He’s been active playing basketball, football, and weightlifting almost his entire life and knowing that he wouldn’t be able to do those activities anymore was devastating. When he heard the news of his cancer diagnosis, he thought of his friends and family and how they would feel about it—he didn’t want to make them sad. He recalls a time when he told one of his good friends who came over and they cried together, which was sad and therapeutic at the same time for both.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Thomas stopped attending school, although he continued to complete his homework and do online classes to keep up with his peers. Throughout his experience of months of chemotherapy, surgery, imaging, bloodwork, and hospital stays, he lost interest in school and hanging out with his friends. He wanted to be left alone. He kept his mind off the cancer by playing video games, mostly NBA basketball games, and playing on his phone. He tried to not think about it as much as possible, although it was difficult.
He advises other patients going through similar situations that “everything will be better.” He says to “use your time wisely, you never know when it will change.” He came out the other end of his cancer battle a lot stronger than he thought he was. His life has changed, and he matured mentally in ways that not many kids or even adults will have the chance to experience.
Thomas is more than a year out from his diagnosis, specifically one year and three months, he emphasized. He is looking forward to going back to playing basketball, reconnecting with friends and getting his life back. He’s back in school, and just got his permit. Fortunately, he has a good prognosis, with his cancer localized just to his femur. Now, he goes back to the doctor every 3 months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. Recently, Thomas vacationed in Turks and Caicos with his family for a week, sponsored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He enjoyed every minute of it, relaxing on the beach, playing sports and spending precious time with his family.
Interview by Zohal Jelani