Paralympics: From Cancer at Age 15 to National Championship Contender

Editor's Note: This story pumps me up. I've seen Ranjit when he was the fastest person on the football field and I've seen him when he needed a cane to walk. What better way to overcome cancer, addiction, and amputation than to compete for a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP and an opportunity to represent Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  Screw the Big C and bring this one home, Ranjit!

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Born to Run

By Ranjit Steiner

Twitter: DrFunkenSteiner
Website: RanjitSteiner.com

 

          I started running track in 7th grade. I chased down one of the fastest players on the other team and my football coach made me go out for a local track team. Since then, I have been in love with sprinting.

          In 2006, during my sophomore year of high school I tore my ACL while playing football in the fall but I was determined to heal and finish my rehab in time for track season. Unfortunately, it would take much longer than that. When I went to the first track practice of the season, my coach kicked me out and told me not to come back until I stopped limping. Something was not right. I went to see my orthopedic surgeon and he noticed a swelling in my leg. He immediately ordered an X-ray and the results were overwhelming for a 15-year-old, there was a big chunk of femur that was carved out by a tumor in my leg. I was diagnosed with bone cancer.

          After that diagnosis, a couple months went by before I received news that would change my mindset forever; I was told that I would never run again. That news was more painful to hear than the diagnosis.  I had been a multi-sport athlete my whole life and I could not imagine a life without playing football, sprinting on the track during meets, or just running around with my friends. The next four years were harder.

           I had to endure eight surgeries, multiple infections, and the emotional hardship it brought my family and me before finally deciding to amputate my leg in 2010. The decision did not come lightly. I had fought through severe depression on a daily basis and even became addicted to my medication which allowed me to get through each pain-filled day. It was clear that I could not continue to live like that, so at 19-years-old, I made the decision.

           Having my leg amputated came with some realizations, such as never seriously competing in football, the sport I love, ever again, but running track was a different story. I had a lot of time to reflect during the days leading up to the amputation and promised myself that after the surgery, I was going to compete in the Paralympics. My surgery was scheduled two days after my last academic final, so after I finished that I started to prepare for my new life. After waking up post-operation, I looked down, and my leg was gone. I felt a lot of emotions in that moment but I breathed a sigh of relief and was certain that this moment was the beginning of something very special.

           The athlete mentality in me was strong and I was out of the hospital within four days. My learning curve was steep and I learned to walk as soon as I received my prosthesis. Re-learning how to walk was surreal. It was similar to track practices, I went to every session and appointment wanting to get better. I set a goal for every day and after reaching each goal, I made another one. All of these little daily goals kept me going and kept me on track for my ultimate goal, to get back on to the track and compete! It seems weird, but every day was different. The process of re-learning how to walk ended up being fun and exciting. It was not long before I started running.

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           It has been four years since my amputation (6/14/2010), and I am training harder now than I ever did when I had two legs. I’m training hard and relentlessly six days a week. I do this because I know what it was like to have two legs, and I know what it’s like to have one. Not a day goes by where I take my ability to run for granted. Every morning that I get to strap on my running leg, walk out of the front door on my own, and go for a run is an exhilarating and special experience for me. My training will culminate this weekend, June 20-22, 2014 at the Paralympic Track & Field National Championships in San Mateo, CA. I will be competing in front of my friends and family in the 100m, 200m, and long jump throughout the weekend in hopes of earning a spot on Team USA. The opportunity to represent my country would be surreal and would allow me push back and win against the disease that took my leg away. This journey started out with ditching my walking cane and will hopefully end with a trip to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympics. 

 

U.S. PARALYMPICS TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Where: College of San Mateo
When: Friday, June 20, 2014 (8 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.);
           Saturday, June 21, 2014 (10 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.);
           Sunday, June 22, 2014 (9 a.m. to noon)

 

Read Another Inspirational Story about Perseverance Through Trying Circumstances: Here