This past finals week in Dec. 2017 was incredibly different for senior Arnav Aggarwal than it was for any other student. That week, Aggarwal was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
According to Aggarwal, around Jan. 2017, he was told that it was a benign tumor as it did not grow for a couple months. However, after recent MRIs in November, the mass had apparently doubled in size. After another biopsy, it was confirmed.
Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that results in the body producing immature bones. In Aggarwal’s own words, “The cells responsible for bone growth are ‘making more bone.’” This leads to bones that are weaker and more easily broken, as well as potentially having limited movement.
This type of cancer is fairly rare, with only about 400 cases per year in the United States. However, it is also the most common type of cancer among teens, being the third most common type of cancer among adolescents behind lymphomas and brain tumors.
Aggarwal is currently undergoing five to six five week chemotherapy cycles, with a surgery towards the end of February. The specific type of chemotherapy, known as MAP (Methotrexate Adriamycin Platinol), involves a combination of three chemotherapy medications.
The cancer and the treatment has affected Aggarwal in more than a few ways. He had to reduce his school workload – a fact that the front office has been very supportive of. In terms of extracurriculars, particularly sports, Aggarwal was forced to leave the soccer team and has found it difficult to remain fit in general.
Additionally, Aggarwal is unsure how it will affect his college career, as his treatment is scheduled to end in August, around the same time that college starts for most students.
According to Aggarwal, “Chemo does take its toll on you. That question of ‘Why ME?’ echoes in my mind frequently. To get my mind off it, I just don’t even think about it and try to go on with my life.”
Aggarwal has experienced an enormous outpour of support from parents, teachers, friends, and fellow students. For example, several seniors, specifically Sean Murphy, Jaeden Bailey, Connor Riches, Tyler Johnson, Jackson Haun, Bo Fick, Julian Sanchez, and Jack Cutler, shaved their heads to show solidarity with Aggarwal. Additionally, Senior Sean Murphy made hats, which have Arnav’s face on the front and the words “Arnav Strong” on the back to allow others to show their support for Aggarwal.
After his first week of chemotherapy, Aggarwal discovered that his laptop and phone had been flooded with emails, texts, and visits from students, parents, and teachers voicing their support.
“When I came to school after the break, I was amazed by the sea of pink hats I saw. I appreciate everyone who wants to help out. It really takes my mind off what I’m going through and it puts me at ease knowing there is at least someone that’s rooting for me,” Aggarwal stated.
There has also been a flood of verbal support for Aggarwal. Senior Jaeden Bailey, one of the people who shaved his head, had this to say about him:
“He’s a fighter. I think he’s going to be fine. If you interact with him he doesn’t seem like anything is wrong with him, because that’s how Arnav is. He’s always himself, and it’s just crazy how strong he is.”