At age 17, Craig King was an athletic honor student, playing both football and baseball at his South Carolina high school. At the beginning of his senior year, Craig noticed a lump on his leg and overlooked it as a sports injury. Although the lump grew as his senior year progressed, Craig played every game. With hopes of one day becoming a teacher, he graduated from high school and prepared for college.
Less than two months after graduation, he bumped his leg and was shocked by the pain. He saw multiple doctors before he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma — bone cancer — in his left leg. Instead of packing for college, Craig underwent eleven months of chemotherapy to aggressively treat the cancer. During his chemotherapy, Craig had limb salvage surgery to save his leg and his life. His tibia was removed and replaced with a donor bone and his knee was reconstructed using orthopaedic cement and chrome cobalt.
Craig underwent intensive physical therapy after his surgery. "One of the biggest challenges was learning how to walk again," Craig remembers. He experienced significant pain in his leg for months after surgery. He used a wheelchair to get around, and eventually progressed to crutches, then a walker, and eventually was able to walk on his own. "Physical therapy was hard, but the hospital provided a great support staff and my family and faith played a significant role in my rehabilitation."
Osteogenic sarcoma is one of the most common types of bone cancers in children and young adults, representing 35% of all bone cancer cases. It most frequently affects the larger bones of the arms and legs. To prevent the spread of the cancer, patients with osteogenic sarcoma require surgery for removal of the bone tumors and surrounding tissues. To help patients maintain use of their limbs, new techniques and materials in limb saving surgery, reconstruction, and prosthesis are constantly being developed. Recovery requires extensive physical and occupational therapy, the use of prosthetic devices and often, counseling.
While Craig is no longer able to play physically demanding sports, he was able to return to school and pursue his teaching degree. In 2007, Craig earned his Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. He serves as an adjunct professor at South Carolina State University teaching leadership development to incoming freshmen. Now the Director of Governmental Affairs the Palmetto State Teachers Association, Craig serves as an advocate for public education in South Carolina. Recently, Craig developed an institute for male teachers. Craig is also active in many community organizations serving children with cancer, particularly Camp Kemo. Craig will be having his second Celebration of Life Gala to raise money for Relay for Life and Camp Kemo this May.
Craig, now an 11-year cancer survivor, serves as an Ambassador for the American Cancer Society, traveling throughout South Carolina to advocate the need for further research. Additionally, Craig has traveled to Washington, DC, several years to advocate for musculoskeletal research on Capitol Hill. "Without musculoskeletal research, I might not be doing the things I am doing today," Craig says.
Additional research funding can improve the lives of people suffering from bone cancer by helping to develop better surgical techniques, advancements in materials and technologies that can save limbs and avoid amputation, and maybe even provide a cure for the hundreds of children affected by this disease. "This type of research might allow others who, like me, are given a chance to reach their goals with a powerful testimony on life."
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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