Movin' Mavs player was changed by cancer but is living with no regrets

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Movin' Mavs Wheelchair Basketball

Friday at College Park Center. Admission free.

UTA vs. University of Alabama, 3 p.m.

UTA vs. University of Illinois, 7 p.m.

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My tumor was about the size of a cantaloupe by the time they found it, six months after I went to the doctor with leg pain.

I was an athletic 11-year-old, and the last thing on my mind was cancer.

There is no way for a person who hasn't had cancer to know the feeling I had on that dark night, Oct. 17, 2003, when I was told I had Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

I had to undergo chemotherapy for 11 months and radiation for 30 days. Those treatments, along with countless surgeries, put my cancer in remission and made me the man I am today.

I may never have been to war, but I know what it's like to battle for my life.

I also know what helped save it.

Despite many operations in an effort to save my leg, the best option in the end was to amputate it. So, on Dec. 13, 2006, the doctors removed my left leg at the hip.

During my fight with cancer, I missed a couple of years of school but worked with my teachers to stay caught up. Once I returned to school, though, I quickly realized that intelligence was not what I lacked -- I was behind socially.

While my social life had died down during my treatment, all my friends had continued theirs. I didn't expect them to slow their lives; I just didn't expect to feel so out-of-place when I got back among them.

But in my sophomore year in high school, another event would change my life forever. My physical therapist introduced me to the sport of wheelchair basketball, and I have not stopped playing since.

I had played all types of sports before being diagnosed with cancer, but never thought I could continue with just one leg. I quickly fell in love with wheelchair basketball and played through the rest of high school in my hometown of Spokane, Wash.

After graduating, I was sure of two things: I wanted to further my education in college, and I wanted to continue developing my basketball skills. I narrowed my choice of universities to the handful that offer competitive wheelchair basketball. The University of Texas at Arlington felt like the best fit, because I was friends with a couple of people on the team after playing against them in high school.

Movin' Mavs Coach Doug Garner is a great person who strives to make sure the team is well cared for. He works non-stop to help the team reach new levels of success and is always available to help and support players.

The Movin' Mavs have become my family away from home. We know that no matter what happens, we will be by each other's side. I am thankful for every day that I get to be a Maverick.I am often asked whether I wish I had never had cancer. That is an easy question to answer: I love my life how it is now, and I would not trade a single day of it away.

More than 1.6 million people were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2012. No one, not even my family or the oncologists of this world, know what it is like to battle something so strong, fast and ruthless as cancer unless they were the ones lying in some lonely, cold, scary, hospital bed.

But all my experiences have shaped me as an individual and made me stronger. I have lived and learned.

Many opportunities have presented themselves to me because of my life events. I am thankful for everything in my life, especially friends and family.

Austan Pierce, 20, is an advertising major/public relations minor at the University of Texas at Arlington and a proud member of the Movin' Mavs.

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