Conner Opie will be participating in the 12th Annual Northwest Sarcoma Foundation Dragonslayer Walk in Seattle this Saturday. Conner, diagnosed with Stage 3 Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, met with SCCA and shared his story.
Like every boy my age, I spent my days running around and playing soccer.
Then the pain started.
The pain started reoccurring and happening every few weeks, a pulsating pain that I was unable to push aside and get to sleep. I couldn’t sleep without pain meds. The pain was in my arm but later we found out the tumor was in my shoulder. I felt the pain in my arm. It was hard to go to school, do the things I would normally be doing.
I was 13.
My parents took me to a doctor and he took an X-ray, gave me some Tylenol and sent me home. Then the pain came back and the pain killers didn’t do anything. One night it was so bad, I started screaming from the pain.
We went to the doctor’s again that night; they thought I was making it all up and when the nurses and doctor lifted my arm, I threw up on the floor.
My parents started calling family, friends. My grandfather, a doctor of neonatology with clinical knowledge recommended we go to Seattle Children’s. We found ourselves on the way to Seattle Children’s, where they immediately took me in, took an MRI of my spine and shoulder.
While we were waiting after the exam, my mom and I heard my name over the intercom and I thought to myself: Let’s just get through this. Then I heard it might be cancer and there would be a biopsy and all I wanted to do was comfort my parents, who were taking it really hard. They were crying.
Diagnosed with Stage 3 Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, I had an orange-sized tumor in my right glenoid joint, my armpit. It had destroyed half of my right shoulder blade. I needed a bone donor to replace half of my scapula and cartilage to repair my shoulder joint.
I would need chemo—10 months of it. After that, the tumor would have to be removed and my shoulder rebuilt. Hearing all this, it started becoming a blur.
I was months away from turning 14.
First round of chemo and Salisbury steak
In my hospital bed, I remember waking up and finding a central line, a line where they injected the chemo into me, lots and lots of it. They had told me it would be there if the cancer was really bad, sure enough there it was. I also remember: Ouch. It hurt so badly. They had used so much tape to secure the line that when they ripped it off, it ripped off all my chest hair. My chest hair that was just starting to grow.
My first round of chemo was a three-day intensive experience. You get really sick and it was really bad. And one chemo they gave me made me really hungry. I was watching The Food Network show on bugs and I had been served a Salisbury steak with mash potatoes. Minty mashed potatoes and this meat. It wasn’t very good. And after another month of chemo, I couldn’t eat meat. Now, I can’t even look at Salisbury steak.
‘Cancer made me anti-social’
After chemotherapy, I was really weak and sensitive to sun. But I wanted to Jet Ski.
My mom, nurses and everyone were against me going outside, especially to Jet Ski. But my doctor, Dr. Ernest "Chappie" Conrad said “Go for it!” I did go. My shoulder hurt but I went.
Other things didn’t go so well.
Cancer made me anti-social. I noticed my memory had been destroyed and I barely retained anything. When I started up school again, it didn’t go well, either. I was homeschooled and comprehended little. Nothing. There was mental wall and I had hit it.
I learned nothing that year and when I went back to school for my freshman year in high school, I was thrown into Seattle Prep. I was getting all C’s and D’s. I tried to do the best I could and I didn’t want to tell my teachers but they forced my hand when I started getting all F’s.
That’s when my mom stepped in. I was being stubborn, she said.
I had to tell teachers about my cancer and when I did, their jaws dropped.
Cancer does not define me
I made it though. I had an expert and caring team of care. Chappie was funny and he got me. He knew what he was doing, he was a world expert and I had confidence in him. Everyone did. My nurse practitioners Sue and Kristen were great. They understood and helped get me through it. They cared and they knew how hard it was and how hard it was going to be.
Today, it's a different story. I was accepted to Washington State University, where I am now enrolled as a freshman. While cancer made me anti-social, it did not define me.
College has been great. I decided to talk to everyone I could and made a ton of friend and even signed up for Greek Rush. Now, I’m a fraternity brother of Farm House.
I'm studying to be an accountant, I’m good with numbers.
On April 23, I'll be home from college to participate in the 12th Annual Sarcoma Dragonslayer Seattle Walk for Sarcoma. It has become a family tradition, with all our family members marching. This year, I’m going to be team captain.
SCCA is a proud sponsor of the 12th Annual Northwest Sarcoma Foundation Dragonslayer Walk at Green Lake Park this Saturday. For more information and registration, please contact www.nwsarcoma.org.