CHAPMAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- The road to recovery has been a long one for a Chapman High School student diagnosed with cancer. His struggle to overcome the disease has inspired many and even caught the attention of the Make-A-Wish foundation.
During his sophomore year at Chapman High School, Volkman was diagnosed with osteosarcoma- a rare form of pediatric bone cancer in his leg.
"I was at track practice and I noticed that when I’d run sometimes, that my knee would start hurting or when I’d sit down in class, my knee would start to feel like it was throbbing. I thought maybe I pulled a muscle because I just started track. After a while, the pain started to go away and all of a sudden it came back and it just started hurting a lot more then it used to and I told my mom that I needed to go to the doctor...When you hear you have a tumor, you kind of fear the worst. Am I ok going to be ok? Is everything going to be ok? You don’t want to think it but am I going to die? That’s basically what I thought," Volkman told 13 News.
"It was very scary, especially when you have what you think is a healthy teenager and then the next thing you know, you have a cancer diagnosis," his mother, Robin, said. She says osteosarcoma only affects 450 children in the world each year.
As he underwent surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, his classmates and the town of Chapman rallied around him and even helped raise funds for his family.
"You have to be positive to make it through everything and that’s what everybody- the school and the community- helped me do. They kept me positive," Volkman said.
When Volkman was approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he made a selfless move to completely redo the weight room at his school.
"I was thinking, I need to do something for them. They’ve done enough for me. I need to give back to the community and the school. My dad said one night, 'What about the weight room?' And I said, 'That’s a great idea.' We had nice equipment but we could have nicer and we started looking at that and we got this good stuff. It’s brand new stuff and it’s beautiful. It’s kind of cool because I helped make it happen and it’s going to be here for a really long time, I hope. Hopefully, the kids take good care of it. This is a lot of equipment but I wish it could have been more because I feel like I haven’t given them everything that they’ve given to me," Volkman said.
"The best part about it is, this will carry on for years, what he’s done and many kids will reap the benefit of this equipment," his mother said.
On Friday, August 24, 2012, Chapman High School hosted "Justin Volkman Day" to honor him and recognize what he chose to do for the school in his darkest days instead of wishing for something for himself. The new weight room equipment was also unveiled.
Make-A-Wish helped supply the equipment purchase and is having an artist come and create a mural and share Justin's inspirations and
ideas on the walls of the weight room.
Lisa Capps, Director of Development for Make-A-Wish Kansas, said: "It’s amazing that Justin wanted to give back to his community in the way that he did with the weight room so we feel blessed and honored to be a part of Justin’s wish."
Volkman is now free of cancer and enjoying his senior year. His thoughtful wish will continue to inspire other students to be strong in the face of adversity.
His battle with cancer is shaping his plans for the future. He hopes to study biology at Kansas State University and go on to do cancer research.