by Adam Paris, ALSF
Editor’s note: Previously, we shared Part 1 of Arnav’s story. If you missed that installment, read it here.
“Dad, so you’re telling me I beat half the nation’s best on a half-broken leg.”
Arnav was riding home from the doctor after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of childhood bone cancer. The cancer was in his left leg.
Arnav, as always, had what his father, Nitin, calls “relentless positivity.”
His parents, however, struggled with their new normal.
“Having to learn that he had cancer and that his leg would need surgery, just shattered my wife and me,” said Nitin. “We couldn’t put ourselves together.”
Even with an unknown future looming, Arnav kept his relentless positivity. His parents began searching for an osteosarcoma specialist in the area, boiling down their treatment options to three hospitals. They chose Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and began preparations for Arnav's treatment, which began with pre-surgery chemotherapy.
Much to Arnav’s relief, the consulting surgeons told him that his leg wouldn’t need to be amputated. They told his family that removing the part of his leg affected by the cancer would suffice, but the particulars of the surgery would depend on Arnav’s future goals.
The surgeons devised two plans, one where he would receive an artificial knee that would recover quickly but restrict his athletic endeavors or he could embark on a year-and-a-half recovery time with a surgery that entailed reconstructing his knee. The second one meant that Arnav would be able to bike again, so his response was obvious.
“His aspirations were definitely to get back on the bike,” Nitin said. “We know he wants to get back on the cycle, we know he wants to compete and we’re fully supportive of whatever he wants to do.”
Arnav's surgery in November 2016 entailed reconstructing the leg with a donor bone, attaching fibula from the right leg, strengthening the entire leg by embedding steel rods, reconstructing the knee and then all stitched together through microvascular surgery, a type of surgery used to reattach the smallest blood vessels, as the final step of a 16-hour process.
Arnav’s pursuit of cycling again continues to pedal him forward and he uses that finish line as an inspirational endpoint for his journey.
“It’s my passion and it’s gotten me through this,” Arnav said. “Just knowing that I can race again after this.”
Arnav completed his final chemotherapy session in late April, which means the reconstructed bone will finally begin to heal. Throughout this entire process, there’s been an outpouring of support from his community, family and friends to help keep him going.
“There were so many people we don’t know who have come and said, ‘Whatever you need, we want to help,’ and they have helped. It is amazing,” said Nitin. “Having a whole village around you is very important because you can’t do it by yourself.”
Even stronger than the rallying community is the bond between Arnav and his twin brother, Dhruv. Already connected by their cycling commitment, this entire experience has brought the two even closer.
“Dhruv has not even once said, ‘I have this party to go to,’ or ‘I have this fun event with my friends,’ he has canceled all of those in a heartbeat and said I want to be with my brother,” said Nitin.
“I think our bond really got stronger because he was really the only person I could play with,” said Arnav. “I think that just made our bond thousands of times better and it just grew tremendously.”
The family’s resolve remains powered by Arnav’s courage and relentless positivity. That’s been the biggest takeaway for Nitin, who urges other families to maintain a positive outlook to help them through difficult times no matter what. Arnav knows that sharing his story of hope through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation will help plenty others facing the same challenges as him.
“I think that getting the story out there so more people will know that there’s still hope and there’s a light at the end, that’s awesome,” said Arnav.
Going forward, Arnav’s dream is getting back on that bike, something he hopes to do by December. Beyond that point, he remains unsure, even if his parents may be pushing him towards becoming an osteosarcoma surgeon.
“Who would be more empathetic to their patient than he could be?” Nitin said.
Missed the beginning of Arnav’s story? Read Part 1 here.
This September, Arnav and his family will join Alex's Million Mile, and help us go 1 million miles and raise $1 million for childhood cancer research! You can join, too! Get the details here.