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Cancer survivor says he owes life to Terry Fox

Daniel LeCheminant at the 2012 Terry Fox Run. -
Daniel LeCheminant at the 2012 Terry Fox Run.
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Initially, the right knee injury Daniel LeCheminant sustained playing hockey was diagnosed—as he suspected—as a pulled medial collateral ligament.

“My initial symptoms were that of an MCL sprain—significant tenderness on the inside of the knee and swelling in the same general area,” he said.

The Richmond man had just started playing hockey a week earlier, and was also working at a bar downtown. Being young, and believing the diagnosis, he forged ahead confident he could simply work though it. But soon the pain worsened, to the point where he could no longer do his job.

A further battery of tests revealed he was suffering from osteosarcoma, the same aggressive type of bone cancer that Terry Fox had.

On Sunday, during the Terry Fox Run at Garry Point Park, LeCheminant will remember the Port Coquitlam-raised hero.

Only 21 years old, LeCheminant proceeded to endure six rounds of chemotherapy and required full knee replacement surgery. He lost four inches of his femur, which required a metal post to be inserted into his leg to connect to a prosthetic knee.

“The bone grows around the top of it to secure it in place. You can’t really tell though because it’s on the inside of the knee cap,” explained LeCheminant, now 22, who attributes his ability to survive to two things—catching the cancer in its early stages, before it spread, and the world-class B.C. Cancer Clinic.

Just over a year after the cancer diagnosis, the young man has returned to his old job and is back studying at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“My life has returned to exactly how it was pre-cancer,” he said. “I am just as capable as I was previously—well, almost. There isn’t much I can’t do. That being said, there are things I choose not to do anymore like running more than a short distance, wakeboarding and snowboarding.

The knee replacement he received was mainly designed for people over the age of 50, so he tries to minimize wear and tear so it won’t be a problem later in life.

LeCheminant also credits a strong family circle for helping in his recovery and highly recommends not living alone.

“I was fortunate enough to be still living at home with my mom and brother and sister when I was diagnosed and I think it made a huge difference in my recovery. They were awesome,” he said.

“My mom is a single mom and  took almost a year off work to see me through. It was hard on her financially, but the cancer agency stepped up and paid for a large portion of my medications. And at last year’s Terry Fox Run my mom pushed me the whole way in a wheelchair. I had just finished my third round of chemo the day before and was not feeling well, but...sick or not I was doing it.”

The Terry Fox Run and foundation is important to LeCheminant. He said the awareness Fox brought to osteosarcoma has led to massive amounts of funding for research.

“All the advances to the drug treatment, the pain control, nausea control drugs have made my journey much more tolerable. The bone biopsy was so much better than I expected and the equipment was state of the art. To give an idea of how far we have come in treating osteosarcoma Terry Fox received a prosthetic leg, and lost his life. I on the other hand received a prosthetic knee and an excellent chance of beating the cancer.”

LeCheminant said if he had been born earlier, or elsewhere in the world, he might not be here today. And for being here, he thanks Terry Fox.

“I honestly feel that I owe my life to him, that he lost his to help people like me. That was indeed his higher purpose.”

This year’s Terry Fox Run in Richmond is Sunday, Sept. 15 at Garry Point Park. Registration by donation is between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., with the five- and 10-kilometre walk/run and one kilometre family trek beginning at 10 a.m. There will also be a silent auction from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The Terry Fox run is the largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research, with more than $500 million raised in honour of the athlete, humanitarian and cancer research activist who in 1980, with one leg, embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

Also Read: Terry Fox's spirit continues to inspire, Column by Christine Blanchette.

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