A Childhood Cancer Survivor on a Mission
- Ethan Fairbanks, 20, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was 7. His diagnosis came after many doctors misdiagnosed his pain as a sports injury.
- He needed to have his leg amputated and underwent chemotherapy and radiation for treatment.
- Today, he’s four years cancer-free (after having one recurrence at age 16) and a record-holding bodybuilder.
- Osteogenic sarcoma, also called osteosarcoma, is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones.
Fairbanks was “involved in just about any sport you can imagine” before a cancer diagnosis changed his life. Pain in his left leg eventually led his mother to bring him to a doctor.Read More
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For treatment, he needed to have his leg amputated and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Eventually, he was able to return to school at age 12, but he was forced to have a hip replacement at age 13 due to side effects from radiation.
A Cancer Survivor Turned Bodybuilder
In a recent YouTube video, Fairbanks explained that he was doing well after that surgery until he had a recurrence in his lung at age 16. But more surgery led to his recovery, and he’s still doing well today. So well, in fact, that he’s even broken two national bench press records for his age and weight class.
“I’ve had one recurrence in the past 7 years so that’s amazing,” he said in his video. “I live a very healthy lifestyle, I’ve managed to completely change my life around.
“I think I was around 80 pounds as a 12-to-13ish-year-old kid… and now 7 years later I weigh 150 pounds.”
Fairbanks added that just last month he was up to 165 pounds, but he’s since dropped his weight down because he’s in a cutting phase of his training.
“No matter what you face throughout your life you have the strength and you have the ability to push through it,” he said. “It’s all a mindset game.
“Hard work will pay off. It’s worked for me — Four years cancer-free.”
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Today, Fairbanks shares many inspirational pictures and videos to his social media channels in the hopes of inspiring others to fulfill their dreams.
“I wasn’t always like this. When I was fresh out of the hospital I would drink like a 12 pack of mountain dew a day, bro. I lived off chicken nuggets,” he said. “I was that kid, but look at me now. I hold two national bench press records… as a cancer survivor with one leg. Let that sink in, okay? If I can do these things, you guys can do these things too.
“And I know some of you guys might be dealing with adversity and you might be dealing with hardships, but you just need to take one step forward and you need to do that every single day and you will become successful. You will reach your goals.”
The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues, such as muscles. This diverse group of diseases accounts for only about 1% of tumors in adults and just over 10% of tumors in children.
The main symptom of sarcomas is generally a slow-growing, painless mass, but symptoms can be hard to detect as soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless and bone sarcomas can be mistakenly diagnosed as orthopedic injuries.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas do not cause many of the symptoms that may be associated with other cancers,” Dr. Dale Shepard, director of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute Phase I and Sarcoma Programs, told SurvivorNet in a previous discussion. “A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. It’s important that patients who do have symptoms are not dismissive of them.”
Types of Sarcoma Cancers
The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers, and individual cancers within that set go by unique names. Some of the types of sarcomas include:
- Ewing’s sarcoma: a cancer that typically occurs in and around the bones, often in the arms or legs, or the bones of the pelvis. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults.
- Kaposi sarcoma: a very rare type of cancer that causes lesions on the skin, in lymph nodes, organs, and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. It typically affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
- Epithelioid sarcoma: a type of soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It is likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg, or foot.
- Synovial sarcoma, also called malignant synovioma: a cancer that can form in the soft tissues such as muscle or ligaments, commonly close to joints or in areas like the arm, leg, or foot.
- Osteogenic sarcoma, also called osteosarcoma: the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. This was the type of cancer Ethan Fairbanks had.
- Spindle cell sarcoma: a very rare disease, comprising as little as 2 percent of all primary bone cancer cases. It can start in the bone, often in the arms, legs, and pelvis, and usually occurs in people over 40.
- Angiosarcoma: a rare cancer that develops in the inner lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels. It can occur anywhere in the body but is most often found in the skin, breast, liver and spleen.
The Resilience of Cancer Warriors
Here at SurvivorNet, we get to share stories of resilience all the time because there’s no shortage of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity and achieving amazing things.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, has an incredible story. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice.
Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic.
“Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist — they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”