Catching up with Kiersten…

austin

This picture truly brings joy to my heart! I think back to when Austin was going through his cancer treatments for leukemia and he asked to play football. I wouldn’t let him until he was done with treatment. When he would get his intrathecal methotrexate (chemo into his spine) the doctor would say “Don’t allow him to do anything that requires balance.” It also sapped his energy. He would tire easily but he worked hard to keep up with his brother and his friends. He would want to play with the neighborhood boys who played backyard football and they would tell him he was no good. To be fair, backyard football is all about catching and throwing and running and he wasn’t awesome at those things. But man could he stop you. So he wanted desperately to play real football.  But I didn’t want to have to worry about where the bruises were coming from. Since leukemia is a blood cancer, bruises are an indicator and that was what lead us to his diagnosis.

Once he completed treatments though, I stood in line early in the morning to get him signed up. And we waited. Would there be enough space on the team? Thankfully yes and Austin’s football career began. A year later than his classmates, but he quickly caught up. He was given growth stunting hormones during his treatment to stop the growth of the cancer and during his treatment his growth chart was flat. But after treatment he would have terrible pains in his legs. I took him to the doctor fearing the worst and was told they were growing pains. His body was bound and determined to catch back up to where it was supposed to be all along. Today, he stands at 6’5″ and he suited up for his college football team, the Division 1 UB Bulls. While he was not recruited to play at the D1 level (there were many D3, D2 and NAIA teams who wanted him) he chose an academic scholarship from the engineering department at UB and approached the coach about walking on. They took a chance and through hard work, determination and a lot of eating, he was invited back this year. I am so incredibly proud of the man he has become, of the hard work he puts in studying aerospace and mechanical engineering and of the kind words his teammates and coaches say about him. As a cancer survivor he continues to provide hope and inspiration. At least he does with me!