DAMIAN BUCHMAN
While I didn’t enjoy the challenges of becoming a two-time survivor of bilateral osteosarcoma, I can say with confidence that those experiences strengthened my lionlike attributes, like persistence and drive.

As told to Britt Julious

They say that a cat has nine lives.

I’ve always loved big cats. Cheetahs. Tigers. Pumas. But the lion captivated my curiosity. Lions enjoy challenges, variety and change. While I didn’t enjoy the challenges of becoming a two-time survivor of bilateral osteosarcoma at just 13 and 14 years old, I can say with confidence that those experiences strengthened my lionlike attributes, like persistence and drive.

On March 7, 1991, days before my 13th birthday, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in my right distal femur. Chemo, limb-salvage surgery and remission one month ahead of protocol followed. LION! In February 1992, I was discharged and reentering teenage life. Whether I was belting Mr. Big’s ballad “To Be With You” or headbanging with Wayne and Garth, I was ecstatic to be bald-headed and alive.

By August 1992, I was a teenage boy heading into high school with a full head of hair and a girlfriend to run her fingers through it. For freshman English, we wrote a paper and delivered a speech on what we hated, loved or feared. I opened my heart to my classmates and shared my vulnerability and healthy fear of recurrence. Not a week later, and just seven months into remission, I was rediagnosed.

My oncologist urged my mom to take me home and let me live out my days as healthy and happy as possible. “Buck up mom, it’s going to be a brutal death,” he said. He saw no way I would survive a second primary tumor, and he was certain that if the cancer didn’t kill me, the aggressive and intense chemotherapy would. But with the strength of my pride by my side, we slayed that Sahara.

Twenty-seven years and 23 knee replacements or revisions later, as the only known survivor of my diagnosis, I’m thriving and living a life that is blessed beyond belief, a life full of endless miracles that befuddles everyone I meet. I’m married to the love of my life whom I met as volunteers at cancer camp. We adopted three beautiful sons in four years. And I’m living my purpose as the founder of The Ability Center, a nonprofit ensuring that people of all abilities can play together. I know firsthand that every parent should be able to play with their child, and every kid should be able to play with their siblings and peers. I cried alone, staring out of my living room window watching my siblings and friends play without me. If I can spare one child from living through that exclusion, I’ve done my job. I look forward to everything this new life holds.

More
articles

CW LIBRARY
Breast Cancer

The cW Library

Acclaimed poet Anne Boyer’s new memoir documenting her experience in treatment for breast cancer will break your heart but leave you wanting more.

Read More »
the blonde cherie
(Y)our Stories

Couture Cancer

While Stacie Fleming was living out her fashion-fueled dreams in Paris, France, strange symptoms called her back to the U.S. The diagnosis? Late-stage ovarian cancer. But Stacie refused to allow cancer to consume her identity, and she used treatment sessions as an opportunity to don a show-stopping outfit and strut her stuff on the “chemo catwalk.” The results? Nurturing her creative spirit allowed her to ultimately find healing.

Read More »
TALK ABOUT CANCER PODCAST
(Y)our Stories

Talk Off

Catharsis and community abound in “Talk About Cancer,” a weekly podcast featuring warriors, caregivers and more speaking candidly about their cancer experience.

Read More »
LIZZIE CARR
(Y)our Stories

Paddling for a Purpose

Environmentalist and Plastic Patrol founder Lizzie Carr found activism through one unusual journey: her treatment for cancer.

Read More »
stephanie yuskis
(Y)our Stories

Mind Over Matter

Breast cancer warrior Stephanie Yuskis found out she had two major health issues in the span of one week, and discovered strength through her son.

Read More »
ASBESTOS AND MESOTHELIOMA
Cancer & Environment

Asbestos & Mesothelioma

Even naturally occurring asbestos can pose a health risk to unsuspecting populations. We explore what can be done to stay safe. The risks of commercial asbestos are well-known, but new research shows natural asbestos deposits could be just as dangerous.

Read More »