It was something Marcus Augusto had seen before: a bruise on his knee after a hard fought hockey game. The 15-year-old had been playing hockey for almost 10 years, starting as a six-year-old at Parkwoods House League. He knew getting hit by the puck would leave a mark on occasion, it was just part of the game. Now playing with the Bantam AA West Hill Golden Hawks, he figured a bruise wasn’t worth spending much time on.
As the weeks went by, Marcus couldn’t ignore the nagging bruise that just wouldn’t go away. In fact, the affected area started to swell and get worse.
“It wasn’t getting better,” explained Marcus’ mother, Alice Augusto. “The swelling in the area became hard and felt hot to the touch.”
What came next for Marcus was a whirlwind of doctors’ visits, tests, and X-rays. After a referral to SickKids, the diagnosis came in: osteosarcoma, a cancer that starts in the bones.
“The oncology team at SickKids were an integral part of the process,” said Mrs. Augusto. “They were so optimistic about the treatment options available and they answered all of Marcus’ questions.”
Most importantly, SickKids staff never discouraged Marcus from his desire to play hockey again. To keep his spirits up, Marcus kept in touch with his teammates and would head to the rink to cheer on his squad between treatments. To improve his future mobility, Marcus was advised to undergo a rotationplasty, a common procedure for children with bone cancer where a portion of the affected limb is removed. In Marcus’ case, doctors removed part of his right leg just below the knee.
The surgery assisted Marcus in his recovery, but it also prevented him from playing traditional hockey. Never one to be discouraged, Marcus found motivation elsewhere. He described to the Toronto Star that watching Canada’s Paralympic athletes changed his outlook on playing sports in the future, calling them “inspiring.”
Determined to get back on the ice, Marcus joined a Markham-based sledge hockey team and played in the Cruisers Cup, a competitive international tournament held in Brampton each year since 2009.
“It was exciting and rewarding to feel like my old athletic self again,” said Marcus. “We even made it to the quarter-finals.”
An integral part of Marcus starting a new normal was becoming involved with Camp Ooch, an organization that provides kids with and affected by childhood cancer with what they need most – the chance to be kids. Marcus attended the organization’s week-long camp in Muskoka and is part of their teen program.
“Marcus demonstrates the confidence of a seasoned camper, and he never turns down a challenge,” said Camp Ooch leadership program coordinator Kevin Limeback. “This can-do attitude, in combination with his wonderfully charismatic and caring personality, allows him to shine as a leader among his peers and within our community.”
“It’s hard to describe, but it was one of the best weeks of my life,” said Marcus about his experience at the camp. “It made me feel like I could do anything I put my mind to.”
Camp Ooch is equipped with volunteers from SickKids who work closely with the oncology team to ensure all campers have the best possible experience.
“I’ll definitely participate again for years to come,” said Marcus, who is currently in the midst of chemotherapy treatments. “I want to be one of their volunteers or leaders.”