Eli was born in 2000 and grew up in the Portland, OR area. He was a joyful and spontaneous kid who was a bright light in the lives of so many –especially his mother Lea, his father Ben, his siblings Ali and Ryan, and his amazing group of friends. For someone so young, Eli was remarkably selfless, caring, insightful and considerate. He was truly the best kind of person.
Eli started playing soccer at the age of five and quickly developed into an incredible athlete. He made the West Linn High School Varsity team when he was a freshman and by the time he was a sophomore, he was the starting goalkeeper and used his skills to become one of the top-rated high school players in Oregon. During this time, he also discovered his talents in graphic design and photoretouching, which led to him doing work for Bleacher Report, Buffalo Fanatics and the Seattle Seahawks.
Unfortunately, Eli’s life changed in June of 2018 when he suddenly developed pain in his left arm and shoulder and discovered a small lump. Initially thought to be just a muscle pull, Eli was encouraged to try physical therapy. But over the next few months, the pain only grew deeper and stronger. It eventually became so intense that Eli could no longersleep. An X-ray was finally taken and the lump turned out to be a tumor. On August 6, Eli was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma – a rare cancer that he and his parents had definitely never heard of, but would soon learn way too much about.
The plan was for Eli to begin chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, then have surgery. But when he broke his arm while rolling on it during a nap, surgery had to come sooner than expected and it was then that Eli had three-quarters of his left humerus bone and entire deltoid muscle removed and replaced with a titanium rod sleeved in a cadaver humerus. As he recovered and continued chemo from September to March, Eli had to do home study – missing out on most of his senior year of high school. But Eli persisted and graduated in 2019. He even got to go to prom.
During the summer, things stabilized. The cancer appeared to be in remission and Eli was able to spend time with his friends – having fun, hanging out and just being teenagers. As his friends headed off to college in the Fall, Eli took a few classes as well. He also took a trip to Europe with his dad – visiting Paris, London and Amsterdam. But it was Edinburgh that was Eli’s favorite spot.
After Eli returned from his trip in October, things took a turn. A scan revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs. He began treatment with an inhibitor called Regorafenib which shrunk the lesions but also caused hair loss, and sores on his hands and in his mouth. Despite being in pain and extremely uncomfortable, Eli pressed on. And in the Spring of 2020, he underwent a scary double thoracotomy to remove what turned out to be eleven lesions. The surgery seemed to be successful and Eli and his parents were relieved.
But the next scan revealed another lesion. What followed was two years of radiation, more inhibitors and more chemo. Through it all, Eli remained his incredible self and even got to travel to Buffalo in October 2021 to cheer on his favorite team, The Bills. In 2022, Eli began what would become multiple trips to Seattle Children’s Hospital where he participated in three clinical trials involving CAR T-cells. In fact, he was the very first person on the planet to do so!
Ultimately, Eli’s cancer became too much for his body to bear. Despite trying every treatment available, Eli passed away on January 4, 2023 at the age of 22. Needless to say, he was taken way too soon. Though Eli suffered for four and a half years, he did it quietly and gracefully in his Eli way. He never wanted anyone to worry about or pity him. And he definitely didn’t want the conversation to be about his cancer. He just wanted to get better so he could keep doing the things he loved with the people he loved. He wanted to look to the future. And, even in the last week of his life, was waiting to hear about a new medication.
In that spirit, we encourage those suffering from Osteosarcoma to always push forward. To trust your intuition. To be an advocate for yourself. And to explore any and every treatment out there. We also ask that you contribute to The Eli Wall Osteosarcoma Research Fund – to honor our beloved Eli and to give others a chance at beating this horrible disease.
A world with less toxic, more effective treatments and a cure for osteosarcoma.
We are devoted to creating and instilling hope with and for our inclusive and collaborative osteosarcoma community. We do this through mutual trust, transparency and compassion.