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A Success Story - Andrew Dotzler

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Andrew Dotzler

 Drew is attending the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Missouri, majoring in Health Sciences.  Drew's battle with cancers has inspired him to eventually obtain a  Master's in Prosthetics and Orthotics, so he can start a non-profit organization that would offer prosthetic arms and legs to those in need who can not afford these limbs.  He has survived Leukemia and Osteosarcoma.  In his own words:

“Between the ages of six and ten, I was diagnosed with two different forms of cancer - Leukemia and Osteosarcoma.  To give a better sense to my story, here is some background on my diagnoses. 

At the age of six, I was diagnosed with Leukemia.  After a year and a half of not responding to various treatments, my only option left was a bone marrow transplant.  This procedure was experimental at the time.  Luckily, I come from a large family with six siblings; my younger brother Jaymond was a match.  On July 9, 1996, I received the transplant.  After 100 days spent in anxious waiting, it was determined the transplant was a success.  The next two years were spent rejoicing and recouping from the physical, emotional and financial strain Leukemia had put on my family. 

Then, quite unexpectedly, when I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in my left knee.  My second cancer was caused by the chemotherapy treatment I had previously received for the Leukemia.  My prognosis was bleak at best.  Immediately after my diagnosis, doctors suggested amputating my left leg in an effort to give me a few more moths to live.  After my leg was amputated and I had undergone about three months of chemotherapy, it was determined that I had received the maximum amount of chemotherapy my body could endure because my organs were being destroyed.  At that time, the doctors informed my parents that they had two options: continue treatment and the chemotherapy would kill me, or discontinue all treatment and take me home to pass away in peace.  The doctors were convinced I would not survive because, up to that point, no person had survived longer than eight months from the onset of chemotherapy-induced cancer.  At the time, I was unaware of my prognosis as my parents decided not to tell me. 

Secretly, they waited in agony for me to pass, but the time never came.  Several years later, they informed me that, according to the doctors, I was not supposed to be alive.  Now, more than 13 years from the diagnosis of my Osteosarcoma, I am alive and well.  Having been fortunate enough to survive two cancers before the age of eleven, I was inspired at a young age to make the most of life and appreciate its fragility.  Consequently, cancer has impacted my outlook on life, my future plans, and it has opened doors to many opportunities. 

One example of how cancer has opened doors is through my experiences at Camp Quality Heartland.  The camp is for children with cancer and their siblings.  Their mission is to "let kids with cancer be kids again."  During my cancer treatments, and for years after, my family and I attended the camp.  We enjoyed the array of activities the camp provided - like fishing, canoeing and crafts.  My brothers, sisters and I did all of this while forming deep friendships that would lead us to come back year after year.  I attended the camp for about 12 years as a camper, and then in 2009, I was able to return as a counselor.  I organized camp activities and events, oversaw individuals and groups during activities, and guided and encouraged diagnosed youth.  Although I volunteered at Camp Quality Heartland with the intentions of impacting young children dealing with the effects of cancer, I think their impact on me was greater.  Even though I had been in the diagnosed youths' position twice in my own life, their bravery and positive attitudes still surprised me.  They reminded me there is always hope, even in seemingly impossible situations. 

From my experiences at Camp Quality Heartland, I took away a desire to continue serving people who have cancer and other impairments.  For this reason, I decided to study prosthetics and orthotics as a career.  In pursuit of this career, I am working toward a degree in Health Sciences.  After earning this, I will obtain a Master's in Prosthetics and Orthotics.  I currently volunteer at a prosthetics and orthotics business locally in order to gain experience in my intended field.  Upon completing graduate school, my wife and I intend to return to my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.  Eventually, it is there that I hope to start a non-profit organization that will make legs, arms and other prosthetic devices for those in the area who are not able to afford limbs.  In doing this, I will be able to assist not only those like myself, who have been impacted by cancer treatments, but also hundreds more who have congenital or acquired impairments. 

As you can see, cancer has deeply impacted my life, and it has made me the person I am today.  For that, I am thankful.  I have survived cancer twice, the loss of a leg, extreme doses of chemotherapy, as well as multiple diseases and side effects from all of my treatments.  Furthermore, since my original cancers, I have endured through numerous benign tumors and cysts.  I believe that most people would have given up under these circumstances, but not me.  All of these trials have only served to strengthen my will to live and make a difference in the lives of those around me. 

I would be a fool to think that I could change the world all by myself.  We all must contribute if we wish to make a real difference in the lives of the people that I treat and care for while working as a prosthesist.  I appreciate Cancer Survivors' Fund so much for being by my side as we impact and change the world - together.”

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