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From a high school track runner learning how to run again after a leg amputation due to bone cancer to a father adopting a healthier lifestyle to lose 115 pounds after losing his wife to ovarian cancer, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.
Abigail Wells, a high school junior from Arkansas, was only 14 when she received a bone cancer diagnosis. What she had originally thought to be a track-related injury was actually osteosarcoma, which affects areas where the bone grows quickly.
Treatment for osteosarcoma can include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or amputation. Wells made the difficult decision to have her leg amputated, despite knowing it would affect her running.
"I told them that I would rather lose my leg than lose my life because that meant more," Wells told THV. "I wanted to make sure I had a future after this and that I didn't have to worry about the cancer coming back."
After the surgery, Wells made it her mission to get back on the track. After gradually progressing from standing to walking, biking and eventually, running, she was able to return to competing in track meets last week.
Amanda Rice and Tracy Weiss were both diagnosed with cancer in their early 30s. Rice, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Weiss, who was diagnosed with uterine and cervical cancer, were both denied coverage for fertility treatments from their insurance companies when they decided to freeze their eggs after learning about their cancers.
"There is an urgency that comes with a cancer diagnosis," Weiss told NBC. "You have to preserve your fertility. It's kind of your only shot."
This led them to the creation of Chick Mission, a nonprofit that aims to directly support women financially, create educational programs and advocate for legislative change around fertility preservation.
"I don't think that your socio-economic background should dictate whether you become a future mom after you win your battle with cancer," said Rice. "I had to figure out a way to solve this problem."
The organization has raised $2 million since it began in 2017 and has awarded grants for fertility preservation to 125 patients with cancer.
After Jacob Anselmo’s wife, Rachel, died from ovarian cancer in 2017, he knew he needed to prioritize his health, not only for himself but for the sake of his two young children, Sophia and Henry.
In the years prior to his wife’s diagnosis, Anselmo had engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle due to working long hours. “I had no regard for my health at all,” he told TODAY. “I always thought, ‘Someday I’ll lose the weight.’”
The stress of the diagnosis only added to his unhealthy habits as he began to use food to cope. After her death, Anselmo began a fitness journey. He started with small steps such as switching from soda to water and saw quick results, so he eventually changed all of his nutritional habits and built a gym in his basement.
After losing 115 pounds, Anselmo has been able to keep a steady weight while balancing work and childcare as a single father.
“Now I have so much energy,” he said. “I’m almost 37 and honestly, I feel better than I did in my early 20s.”
Harper Reis, a first grader at Brown Elementary School in Peabody, Massachusetts, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer, in 2018. After several years of treatment, she completed her final day of treatment on April 4. The next day, her elementary school community surprised her with a celebration they called “Harper’s Happy Day.” The event was complete with balloons, activities and goodie bags featuring items related to cancer awareness.
"We want Harper to look back and remember a celebration of her strength and bravery. Harper has taught us the importance of a positive attitude and has helped us put things into perspective each day," said Elizabeth Ofilos, Harper's first-grade teacher, in a press release. "She is our hero."
Her classmates, teachers and community were eager to celebrate Reis.
"This is a really happy moment for Harper and it gave us a special opportunity to come together and celebrate as she reaches this milestone,” said Brown Principal Lauren King. “She is a wonderfully positive, vibrant student, and has put forth her best effort each and every day regardless of the challenges she's faced.”
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