IamA real life Augustus Waters (cancer survivor) AMA!
For those of you who don't know, Augustus Waters is the male lead in "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. I have some very striking similarities to this character, so I decided to do a comparison to him as my short, fun bio.
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right leg as a younger teen (osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer)
Went through 8-9 months of chemotherapy and 2+ surgeries to remove the tumor in the leg
Over six months since chemo ended and still cancer free
Instead of amputating, I got major reconstructive surgery (see image below)
I'm Asian, not Caucasian
This post is meant to answer any questions about what being diagnosed with cancer as a teenager/child is like. If you or someone you know is going through tough times, please let me remind you that it will get better!
Yeah, but my comparison was meant to be when he was alive. :)
How did you feel about the portrayal of cancer patients in The Fault in Our Stars? Was their emotional journey pretty accurate?
Everyone has their own personalities and backgrounds and would respond differently to a trauma like this. With that being said, I did not find anything that inaccurate with the way the cancer patients were portrayed.
what were your symptoms?
Knee pain and shrinking of my right quadriceps muscles. It lasted for about a month before I went to get x-rays and MRIs.
What kind of knee pain? Like stiffness or just pain but still able to use normally?
Just slight bone discomfort right inside the knee. It seemed pretty minor, but I couldn't use the knee normally because of the muscle atrophy.
Can you still play sports?
Currently, I can't run or jump, so I swim and bike to keep in shape. When I'm fully recovered, I'll be able to play sports at a recreational level. High-contact sports like soccer and football will be pretty iffy though.
Best of luck! I broke my leg about 8 months ago so to some degree I understand your struggle. Being athletic and not being able to play sports had me really depressed for a while, but it was all the more motivation for me to make a strong recovery.
Thanks, good luck with your recovery!
What advice/encouragement would you give to another young person who had just been diagnosed with cancer?
This is probably going to sound cliche, but stay strong and reach out to your friends/family. Having a good support structure is very important when dealing with something like this. Whether it be a best friend, parent, or sibling, having someone to confide in does wonders for your mental health.
Just wanted to give you a high 5 for the positive attitude. Stg4 survivor myself so I know both how hard that can be to maintain but also how unbelievably important it is to keep doing. Fight on and keep smiling!
Thanks! High five man!
First off, I'm hoping you're in remission and doing well now! I'm sure it's been hell. You're a strong person. My question was, how did your parents or immediate family handle it? I can't imagine how crappy it'd feel to not be able to help your own child. Also, did people at school make a big deal of it? Take care, and happy new year. :)
It was tough for my parents. They had divorced less than a year ago, and my grandmother's (dad's side) health was failing. Despite the horrible timing of my illness, both of my parents were extremely supportive and took turns taking care of me. They were both very sad to see their son this sick, of course, but they handled it fairly well.
I didn't really go to school and instead had a tutor (my English teacher) drop by my house every week or so to make sure I finished AP Lit/gov. The few times I did go to school, they were super supportive.
How do you feel about swedish hiphop?
Not too familiar with this but it's probably pretty awesome.
Did people around you understand your cancer or was it harder to make friends or fit in?
People generally understood what I was going through. My friends were very supportive and several visited me at the hospital/home. I didn't really make any new friends because I stayed with the same group, but my old friends made me feel at ease.
What was the worst part about chemo?
The fatigue was pretty bad. Most days right after receiving chemo I would just stay in bed and watch TV/movies. If I felt ambitious I would fire up Hearthstone (online card game by Blizzard).
What's the best thing a friend/relative could do for someone who has cancer?
Sometimes, after people you rarely knew come up to you to support you, it feels superficial and you are reminded of how unlucky you were. In these cases it is really nice for your friends/relatives to act as if you were normal; it's nice to have that feeling of normality every once and awhile.
which one would you prefer? A horse-size duck or 10 duck-size horses?
Uhhhhh I feel like the 10 duck-size horses would be cuter.
What did you take to make yourself comfortable during chemo? Pain meds? Medication to keep food down? Did you consider marijuana?
My hospital was very good about prescribing medicine to keep me comfortable. I took the bare minimum anti-nausea medication (ondansetron, dexamethasone) and only took pain medication (oxycodone) after surgeries. Medical marijuana was an option, but I ended up not needing it because I love food.
how are you doing?
I'm doing well, how are you?
The major surgery was a several hour long process that involved cutting a foot long incision along my right leg. They then removed my entire knee, cut out the bone around the tumor to make sure they got all of it, and inserted some metal replacements for my knee and the femur bone they removed. Total recovery period is quite long because they also had to remove muscle (that never grows back, just becomes stronger), so I'd imagine somewhere around 1.5-2 years for a full recovery.
So, you're not a real life Augustus Waters?
To be fair, he was considered a survivor for at least 6 months, which is where I am at now.
do you like the movie? (faults in our stars(
It was a pretty good movie! Kind of corny in my opinion... or maybe I'm just jealous about how well they clicked.
First, I'm so happy to see you're doing well, I think you're courageous! Handling cancer as young as you are must have been pretty horrible. Second, I see from your schedule that they gave you lots of IV anti-emetics. How bad was the nausea and vomiting from the chemo?
Not bad at all. I only threw up once (after the first round of chemo). The rest of the time I just waited until I was hungry to eat, and I ate food that I still enjoyed.
Despite doing chemo, do you think there was something else you were doing to keep you alive? Like physical exercise, smoking marijuana, etc.
I was a really innocent kid, so no drugs of any sort. I can think of four things that kept me going: playing the piano and singing along, hanging out with friends and family, playing video games/watching TV+movies, and exercising (biking/swimming/weights).
You mentioned earlier that you are in college now: what year are you in and do the people at your school know that you previously had cancer?
I'm a freshman. Only friends/dormies do because they've seen me often enough with shorts to see the huge scar on my right leg. I don't publicize it or try to hide it; to me it is what it is.
Have you seen the movie 50/50? If so, what did you think of it?
I haven't yet, but it was recommended to me several times.
...You know Augustus died, right?
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