Back to normalcy
A diagnosis of bone cancer and the amputation of Monk's left foot changed his life forever, but he wasn't about to let it dampen his spirits or slow him down.
St. Jude patient Monk, age 16, bone cancer
Leading up to Monk’s diagnosis of cancer in early 2018, he was a typical teenager. He played forward and center on his high school’s basketball team. He rode dirt bikes and four-wheelers and ran around with his friends. Bumps and bruises were par for the course.
“I was always coming home with something banged up or bleeding,” Monk said.
One afternoon, while out roughhousing with friends, Monk stepped into a hole and twisted his left ankle. He iced it when he got home, but in the morning, it still hurt. Days later, the discomfort hadn’t gone away. Little things, like stepping wrong, sent ribbons of pain up his leg.
Fearing something worse than a sprain, Monk’s mom, Rebecca, took him to the local emergency room. While waiting for the MRI results, Monk convinced himself that nothing was wrong.
Then the doctor opened the exam room door and asked Monk’s parents to step into the hall.
“Telling Monk he had cancer, that was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done,” Rebecca said.
The MRI had revealed a mass on Monk’s left distal tibia. It was a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. The doctor had already reached out to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “I’d heard of St. Jude, of course,” Rebecca said. “But never did I ever think we’d be there.”
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At St. Jude, Monk’s treatment included 32 rounds of chemotherapy. Because of tumor growth, his left foot was amputated. Post surgery, Monk was fitted with a prosthesis. Physical therapy ensured he adjusted quickly to having it.
At first, the thought of losing his foot hit Monk hard, but once he was fitted with the prosthesis, he realized he’d get used to it. Plus, he had a role model who was already an amputee. “My best friend was in an accident when she was 3 years old,” he explained. “Her leg was amputated, but she does everything. She plays basketball and runs down the court shooting threes and getting rebounds.”
Telling Monk he had cancer, that was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.
As soon as Monk finished treatment and returned home, he assimilated back into his group of friends. They hang out, listen to music, go out to eat and watch movies — all the things they did before he got sick.
“Those boys run around, they play hard. Monk’s right there with them. He’s tough,” said Rebecca. “He doesn’t miss a beat.”
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