After relapsing four times in the past seven years, Columbus native Kyle Anderson said he is feeling optimistic moving forward after being pronounced cancer-free in 2017.
“It just helped me see everything in a big picture,” Anderson said. “Part of my motto now is … to get to where you want, it takes hard work but life can turn on you any second so if you’re not at least somewhat enjoying the journey you’re going have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth it because you’ll never know when life can turn upside down on you.”
When 12-year-old Anderson was diagnosed in 2011 with osteosarcoma, a common type of bone cancer, he said it was a tough pill to swallow. Before the life-changing trip to the hospital, Anderson said for several weeks he felt a sharp pain behind his left knee but assumed it was an injury caused by playing soccer.
“A few weeks later, my whole knee was bulging and you can tell … something else was there,” said Anderson, who is currently a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Kearney majoring in biology with a pre-medical emphasis.
Anderson said the diagnosis struck his family pretty hard, but they were determined to fight the disease alongside him. The cancer survivor said he never stopped feeling support from his family, friends and teachers.
“ (They were) Always encouraging me, always accommodating the things I need, taking care of me when I am sick,” Anderson said.
During his first diagnosis, Anderson was determined to continue his education at Immanuel Lutheran School throughout the duration of his chemotherapy from November 2011 to August 2012 at Children's Hospital of Omaha.
Anderson said he received lot of support from school staff and his peers, who helped make sure he was well caught up with his school work during his extended absence. He said teachers gave him additional time to complete tasks and his friends brought him his school work ensuring he was up to speed.
“Being at (Immanuel Lutheran School), it’s a smaller school so all the teachers were able to accommodate everything and they were very good with it,” he said.
Anderson was declared cancer-free after spending nine months in chemotherapy when more bad news came in January 2014. Doctors found a nodule in his left lung, which came back cancerous.
Anderson underwent inhaled chemotherapy a month later at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Anderson and his family commuted 14 hours there and back for the treatment once every other week until November 2014.
Anderson’s health continued to fluctuate with tumor and cancer cells spreading throughout his lungs, diaphragm, shoulder and armpit. Throughout his journey, Anderson said chemotherapy was the toughest part because of it’s numerous side effects which were at times mentally and physically draining.
Anderson said physical therapy was also tough, especially when he learned how to walk again after a knee replacement.
Anderson has been cancer free and without treatment since April 2017 -- his senior year at Columbus High School.
Anderson’s story eventually reached the ears of officials at Sammy’s Superheroes Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for childhood cancer research. They subsequently invited Anderson to be the keynote speaker for the first time during the organization’s Glow Gold Honors held Sunday.
Alyssa Theilen, development coordinator at Sammy’s Superheroes Foundation, said Anderson did an amazing job sharing his journey with attendees. Theilen said his story was truly inspirational.
Anderson said he remembers the organization really taking off when he was finishing up his first round of chemotherapy in 2011. He said felt like his life came into a full circle when he presented his speech.
“It felt great,” he said.
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.