A Shocking Diagnosis
After five weeks in the hospital to treat his fracture, biopsies revealed sobering news.
Rheed remembers walking into the room where his parents and doctor were talking. “The first thing I noticed was my parents both crying,” he says. “It was the first time in my life that I had ever seen my dad cry, so I knew something was wrong.”
Rheed was told that the tumor in his hip was bone cancer — osteosarcoma — and would require immediate treatment.
At the time, Rheed did not know much about cancer, other than that it was deadly. “I was determined to make sure it did not take over my life,” Rheed says. “My first reaction was to ask my doctor, ‘When can we start fighting this thing?’”
Rheed’s Competitive Spirit
“Before I fell, playing sports was my life,” Rheed says. “I always wanted to be No. 1 at everything. I wanted to be surrounded by people who challenged me.” The diagnosis brought Rheed his biggest challenge yet — fighting osteosarcoma. To stay motivated, he also made a goal of what he wanted to do after treatment: “One day, I am going to be able to surf.”
Rheed began his osteosarcoma treatment journey in May 2016. He was treated with four rounds of chemotherapy followed by a six-hour surgery to remove the tumor and replace the diseased bone with titanium and a full hip replacement. Six weeks following the surgery, he went back for four more rounds of chemotherapy. The hospital became his home, and his nurses became like family.
As he concluded his chemo, Rheed had to learn to walk again, having spent the last six months in a wheelchair. Physical therapy helped him ease into it with practice walks in a pool. “The water felt absolutely amazing,” Rheed says. Within weeks, he was walking on his own again. He finished his final cycle of treatment in early 2017.
A Relapse and Swift Recovery
In July 2018, Rheed faced yet another challenge. A nodule was found on his right lung, which required another surgery to remove the nodule as well as three ribs.
A follow up PET scan detected two more ribs with cancer which also had to be removed. But then the tide turned. Lab reports and scans came back cancer-free. It felt like a miracle to Rheed and his family.
Finding Peace in the Water
Rheed, now 19, has been in remission for four years. He can walk normally and can even run a little, though he does so with a limp. Where this osteosarcoma survivor really shines is out in the ocean, surfing or paddle boarding.
It is much more than just a way to be physically active. Surfing has become a kind of therapy for him. Nearly every day, he grabs his board and heads for the ocean.
“When I’m on land, I am limited by my physical disability,” says Rheed. “When I’m out in the water, I have no limitations. I feel at peace and have a sense of tranquility. I’m as free as anyone else, which is an awesome feeling.”
A Newfound Passion for Speaking
While osteosarcoma brought profound challenges, it also allowed Rheed to discover another new passion. He loves sharing his story with other young people going through difficult times, whether through a one-on-one conversation or to an audience.