When four-time cancer survivor and football player Casey O’Brien, 20, posted recently on Twitter that he needs more surgery, he ended it with “Let’s do this!” — and the words have resulted in an outpouring of support.
“Earlier today, I had my three-month scans, and the doctors found a small spot in one of my lungs,” he wrote in the note that he posted. “They are not sure what it is, but they want to remove it this week so they can test it. I appreciate everyone’s support and prayers, and I am looking forward to retuning to the field soon.”
Read More— Casey O’Brien (@caseyob14) November 25, 2019
O’Brien, who plays for the University of Minnesota Gophers football team, first got cancer at age 13. His most recent diagnosis was osteosarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone. He has a scar on his chest where a port delivered chemotherapy treatments during his last bout of the disease. Now, doctors tell O’Brien he needs another surgery, this time to remove a spot on his lungs detected during a scan, even though they aren’t sure what it is.
‘Sending You Love and Healing Wishes’
Supporters showed O’Brien a huge amount of encouragement in the comments on his post.
“You are one of the strongest human beings on the planet,” reads one. “You’ve got this. … Sending you love and healing wishes.”
“You have continued to inspire so many Casey,” reads another. “Your attitude is unmatched and your brave beyond your years. Row the Boat and you have a huge fan in me!”
Others relayed their own experiences surviving cancer: “Hey man, I’m a 2x survivor and (treated at U of M too) have had multiple complications post-BMT, including a coma at the end of May. I know the “let’s do this” attitude. We have strength from the Lord. Hope and trust in Him through it all!”
Another group of supporters made a sign that read, “Hawkeye Love To Gopher #14 [Heart] A Hero [Heart]” to hold up from the stands on game day.
O’Brien’s Cancer Journey
O’Brien returned to the field this October after his recent bout with osteosarcoma. After his first post-cancer hold in the game, O’Brien and his coach embraced for an emotional moment.
Since his initial cancer diagnosis, O’Brien has been through a knee replacement, months of chemotherapy, three lung surgeries, and an immunotherapy treatment, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight the disease.
When I look back at it, football has been probably the main thing that has been consistent through it all,” O’Brien said in a speech he gave at the Big Ten’s Kickoff Luncheon about his experience with bone cancer. “I would have been lost without football.”
“That’s what college football’s all about.”
Four-time cancer survivor Casey O’Brien just got his first hold for @GopherFootball.
It was perfect, and so was everyone’s reaction. pic.twitter.com/mnaGvgsErF
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 19, 2019
At first, doctors told O’Brien he shouldn’t play football again because of his knee operation. But O’Brien found a way to play, displaying what his mom calls his “fear second, go first” attitude.
O’Brien’s dad, Dan O’Brien, said that his son has had an incredible attitude throughout his cancer journey. “He is a special kid, and we know the way he’s handled the whole situation that there’s something different about him,” he said.
He was especially proud that Casey got to share his story with the entire conference. “He said to me before he went up … ‘Dad, this is like a dream come true.'”
From his speech, it’s clear how much football has meant to O’Brien during his cancer journey. “I took chemo pills before every spring practice at my first spring ball at Minnesota,” he said. “I did not miss a practice.”
O’Brien, who has a scan every three months, has shown no signs of cancer for the past year and a half. He also has a low sugar, high chicken-and-broccoli diet to maintain his health.
Osteoarcoma: A Rare Cancer that Begins in the Bones
Osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that begins in the bone tissue, is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. According to the American Cancer Society, the tumors tend to begin in the bones around the ends of the leg or arm bones — that is, near the shoulders and knees, areas in which the bones grow quickly in young adults.
When it’s spread throughout the body, the cancer has around a 27% five-year survival rate, which means roughly 27% of patients diagnosed with osteosarcoma will go on to live five years or more. Though every patient is different and treatment regimens differ from patient to patient, standard treatment for osteosarcoma usually includes surgery to remove the bone tumor(s) as well as chemotherapy to target the cancerous cells.