The 18-year-old senior was forced to be bedridden for over a year after a serious cancer was found in Seth’s leg shortly after a family trip to Marine World on April 6, 2012.
Seth attempted to get out of the visitors’ gate, using his knee as leverage to push the bar ahead of him. He noticed how tender the leg felt shortly afterward, and his parents, Pam and Bob, felt that he may have hyper-extended his knee or bruised himself.
Three weeks after the accident, Seth’s knee gave out after he tried to get out of the family’s van. Seth had an MRI bone scan on May 22, 2012. His biopsy was done shortly afterward at Stanford on June 5. New tests confirmed that Seth was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common form of bone cancer found in children. Seth had contracted it in his femur and found that he had lost bone density. His bones would not only fracture with minor trauma over time, but would be brittle enough to break like honeycomb.
Seth took the news calmly, but said his parents were taken by surprise.
“I was scared. Knowing what cancer is and how it can take a life. It’s horrible,” said Bob on Thursday afternoon. “We were just praying for the best outcome. If we would have waited another few days, Seth would have lost his leg. The bones grow into the soft tissue and go through the tunnel into the knee. If the cancer grows into an artery or nerve bundle, the leg will have to come off.”
“I barely made it,” Seth added. “I was lucky.”
Seth had the option of taking a chance in keeping his own leg by using an internal prosthetic or of having his leg cut off. He chose the former and was happy with his decision. For the first time in a year, Seth began walking on his own almost three weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to walk onto Patterson High School’s campus again.
Despite winning the Association of California School Administrator’s Every Student Succeeding program last year, Seth said it will be easier to achieve his full potential in his studies in a classroom setting.
“I missed my whole junior year and did home teaching with PHS,” he said. “I wasn’t able to go to campus. The chemotherapy wiped out my immune system. It was challenging and kind of boring. It’s easier to do school with the teachers and your friends with you. I missed the interaction.”
Seth said he was primarily impressed with PHS for their support, and credited English instructor Diane Peterson for her patience.
“She knew just when to push him and when to leave him alone,” said Bob. “She was a big help.”
Peterson and Tony Lomeli, the assistant principal of discipline, organized a fundraiser to help Seth obtain an iPad for his schoolwork. Friends and teachers also made trips to the hospital throughout his stay at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.
Although Seth is excited to join his classmates, he is even more enthused to be walking on his own again. Although the chemotherapy had affected his lungs as well, Seth has high hopes to gain enough energy to join this year’s marching band.
As an avid hiker and Eagle Scout, Seth hates being confined to one place. He longs for the great outdoors and has always wanted to be close to the Great Plains and its rustic nature.
Since he joined the boy scouts at 11-years-old, he has become incredibly patriotic and has enjoyed backpacking over 250 miles, even in high altitudes.
Despite his condition, Seth and his family have embarked on tedious adventures throughout his illness, and plan for more. They have previously attended Okizu, a camp for families struggling with childhood cancer, and Big Sky Kids Adventure Camp in Montana.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Pam. “Seth had a wonderful time. I think he will be moving out there when he can—[that] area is so…him.”
To help get around without leaving his bed, Seth also utilized his skills as an FCC licensed ham radio operator to talk with others.
“It’s cool to talk with people all around the world. I’m on the insomniac net,” Seth said.
Despite Seth’s positive outlook, expenses have run high for his family as he is forced to stay four to six days at a time in UCSF’s hospital. The travel expenses alone were enough to feign any family’s fortune.
These expenses, in addition to required hospital, prescription and physical therapy copays have “depleted the family bank accounts and there are still several thousand in unpaid medical bills,” said Bob.
As a result, the family has set up a fundraiser on giveforward.com, a website that allows friends and family to raise money directly for a loved one in need of medical expenses.
So far, the Fairchild’s have raised nearly $1,500. They hope to achieve $22,000, $2,000 of which to be paid to the website. They have roughly 100 days left to raise the full amount.
To donate, visit: http://goo.gl/pg5pkk
To see Seth’s journey first hand, visit: http://goo.gl/uzcSAz
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org