John Link

Bone Cancer at 17

What started out as a simple stress fracture in my leg transformed my life. I went from a high school kid working hard to make the varsity baseball team, to cancer patient. Now, I am a survivor. My life isn’t necessarily what I had once imagined, but one that’s more meaningful. Cancer diagnosis has shaped my life, but survival has defined me. While chemotherapy and leg surgery have been a huge part of my struggle, both have helped shape me personally and professionally.

In the spring of 1997, I started having leg pain during high school baseball tryouts. I had always been an athlete and playing baseball was my first love. Through years of playing sports, I had learned to play through injuries, basic bumps, bruises, and even broken bones. However, I was concerned with a pain in my leg, because it wasn’t a typical bump or bruise. I went to my doctor for an evaluation and he believed I had a simple stress fracture. Although I was wearing a leg immobilizer and attending physical therapy, the pain continued. When I got back on the baseball diamond, the pain was so bad I couldn’t ignore it. I had to advocate for myself. Doctors gave me an MRI, thinking surgery would be required to repair the damage to my leg. They soon found that surgery would be necessary, but not the type they originally thought. The doctors discovered I had cancer.

I didn’t have an annoying injury that was interrupting my baseball season. I had a very aggressive bone cancer that was interrupting my life and could actually end it: osteosarcoma. Of course, I’d never even heard the word before, but now it was the center of my existence. And beating it was my goal. Through grueling chemotherapy and leg surgery, I am now cancer free. I’m in my 30s and have dedicated my professional life to raising money for cancer research and I preach the importance of early detection and knowing your body. I am now happily married, living in my new house with our fun-loving dog.

Getting the right diagnosis was the critical first step in my survival. If you ever think you’ve got symptoms that just aren’t right, act early. It can save your life. Not only did being proactive save my life, but through early detection, I saved my leg. There is nothing wrong with going to a doctor, or talking with your parents about your body, it could be the smartest decision you ever make.

"There is nothing wrong with going to a doctor, or talking with your parents about your body, it could be the smartest decision you ever make."

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