MIB News

Spotlight on MIB Agents Junior Advisory Board Member Walker Smallwood

When and how were you first diagnosed? 

I had noticed a lingering pain in my knee for about 6 months. It began in the winter of my freshman year of high school (2017-2018) as I finished our basketball season. The week after basketball ended it was time to start baseball which was my favorite sport. I played through the gradually increasing pain that was manageable in the spring and nearly unbearable to play on in the summer. Near the end of summer, I was taking 2-3 ibuprofen multiple times a day just to walk around and play my games with reduced pain. Finally, the season ended, and I had a tryout scheduled for one of the local teams to play with them next summer. I kept my pain a secret from family and friends until after that tryout. Finally, around mid-August, I told my parents I had been dealing with knee pain for a while and that I thought I needed to go to the doctor. As we went to our local sports medicine office, I expected to hear that I had torn a meniscus or some other common knee injury. I’ll never forget the concerned pale face of the doctor as he examined my X-ray. He would not tell my mother and me what was wrong, but it was obviously not a typical injury. That same night I was sent over to a nearby hospital to get an MRI and that following day is when a cancer specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center told me that I most likely had osteosarcoma. 

What type of treatment(s)/surgery did you have?

Shortly after diagnosis I began eight months of MAP chemotherapy and would undergo a total knee replacement along with a thoracotomy on my right lung because of some nodules found in my scans. Thankfully those nodules turned out to be benign. After finishing my eight months of chemo I would go almost two years cancer free. That is until the summer of 2020 when another nodule was found, this time in my left lung. This required a thoracoscopy procedure which is a much less invasive form of a thoracotomy. I am now over two years out from that surgery and recently had a 4-month checkup that confirmed there is still no evidence of disease (NED).

What are you up to these days?

These days I attend my dream school, The University of Kentucky where I am majoring in exercise science. 

What are your hobbies? What activities do you enjoy in your downtime?

In my downtime, I love to stay active. Even though I can no longer do a lot of the things I once loved, I am still an athlete at heart and do whatever I can. I love to golf, hike, shoot basketball, and toss a baseball. If I’m not outside, I enjoy watching UK sports and my hometown Cincinnati Reds and Bengals. Other than that, I like binge-watching TV when I have the time.

How has osteosarcoma impacted your life?

Osteosarcoma stole my childhood dream. Like my dad and two older brothers, I always wanted to play college baseball. Ever since I can remember I was at a baseball game. It started off as me at my brothers’ games to eventually my own games and tournaments. My childhood was sports, baseball specifically. I don’t remember going a week without having some form of a game, practice, or conditioning. Whether it was for basketball or baseball, my life revolved around athletics. Osteosarcoma took that all away in the blink of an eye. It was a hard adjustment, but I think it was a great thing for me as a person. I’ve had to find new interests and hobbies, and have met new people through my journey. I realized that without sports there is so much more to life and time to pursue other passions that can make a difference in the world. Of course, there will always be that “what if” question, “what if I didn’t get cancer?” would I be playing college baseball? How much different would my life look? The “what if” questions are endless, but at the end of the day nothing is going to change what happened to me, so I must make the best of the cards I have been dealt. I want to use my experiences to hopefully help, encourage, and inspire others through their difficult times. I like to think osteosarcoma gave me a new outlook on life because, in my experience, you don’t start to really live until you think you’re going to die.

What does being a MIB Agents Junior Advisory Board member mean to you?

Being a MIB Junior Advisory Board member means the world to me. To have the opportunity to connect with so many other individuals and families who have been impacted by osteosarcoma is truly amazing. Having the ability to help current OsteoWarriors and their families through what will be one of the hardest times in their lives is an honor, and I hope that I can help make their journey easier than mine. The potential of the Junior Advisory Board is limitless, and I hope to be a part of it for as long as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

Currently, I am on the pre-med track at the University of Kentucky so I will hopefully be attending medical school a few years from now. After spending months in and out of the hospital, I realized that I really enjoyed the hospital/medical field (aside from being a patient). I loved when my doctors would explain to me how my treatments worked and affected my body. I found it all fascinating and realized that I could see that being a career I was interested in. Once I returned to school after treatment, I seemed to have a knack for academics and specifically science that I had never noticed before. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and with that in mind maybe my door for baseball was shut to open the door for medicine.

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