Meet James Dunn:
I normally write about Stroke, or Brain Injury Survivors, but after meeting James Dunn this past summer, I couldn't resist. We, Jane and I decided to go to a 4-day concert in Ontario Canada, and camp in our tent.
Being a two time Stroke Survivor myself, Feel Good Friday, Stroke Recovery Story Week Three – JGH Rehab, we got to stay at the Disabled Camping section, which basically meant that your campsite was a little larger, and you needed your Government issued Accessible Parking Permit, to gain access, plus we had our very own Wheelchair Accessible Shower Unit, along with 6-8 larger Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom Units.
While we, and when I say we, I really mean Jane, was setting up our tent, up pulled a car, and out jumped this young man, and a young lady, that I assumed to be his girlfriend. The guy was walking around on one artificial leg, which looked to be strapped on just above the knee. Not being shy, I simply walked over with my cane, and said "so what's your story". Once I got closer, I quickly noticed a large scar on one side of his body, along his ribcage. I started asking questions, and ignoring the hard looks I was getting from Jane, and here is what I initially discovered.
James was first diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer in 2011, at 11 years of age. Osteosarcoma is a rare but aggressive bone cancer that mostly affects children and teens, especially in their legs and arms. The cancer cells look like immature bone cells that form weak and abnormal bone tissue, which can cause pain, swelling, and fractures. The exact cause of osteosarcoma is unknown, but some factors may increase the risk, such as genetic disorders, radiation exposure, or rapid bone growth. The main treatment for osteosarcoma is surgery to remove the tumor and any affected bone, sometimes with limb-sparing techniques or prosthetic implants. Chemotherapy is also used before and after surgery to shrink the tumor and kill any remaining cancer cells, which can improve the chances of survival and prevent recurrence.
Then I asked him about the scar on his side. Well, in James case, the cancer did come back, in his lung. The Cancer returned late in 2012 James underwent Chemotherapy Treatment to shrink the tumor, then had it removed with surgery. Up to this point, James had mentioned nothing about hockey. It was only after concert organizers approached us about getting into some concert promotional photos, to which we declined, did James mention his affiliation with the Canadian Men's National Sledge Hockey Team. I told James about the blogs I write, and asked him if I could tell his story. The only reason was to maybe encourage someone, especially a young child, who may be going through a similar life changing event.
I emailed James a list of questions, to get background on his story, and to get a better look at the man, and here are the questions and his response to each question.
QUESTION 1: With what and when were you first diagnosed? What is the back story?
I was first diagnosed with Osteosarcoma a form of bone cancer in 2011. I was a very active kid growing up and I started to have knee pain that was limiting me from competing in the sports I liked to play with friends. My knee continued to hurt and swelling began to get bigger. I went in to the hospital and then did a X-ray and then a biopsy to confirm what was wrong.
QUESTION 2: What was you first reaction to your diagnosis?
ANSWER: My first reaction was will I ever be able to play hockey again. At 11 I didn’t really understand what cancer really was but all I cared about was being able to play the sport I loved.
QUESTION 3: What were the alternatives?
ANSWER: I had 3 options for my surgery. A full leg amputation, a procedure where they remove the bones and replace them with metal rods/joints and the rotation plasty surgery.
QUESTION 4: How did you first handle the whole concept of being an amputee?
ANSWER: It was my only option and I knew I had to make the best of it. I wanted to become active as soon as I could again so I worked hard to regain to walk when I got my first prosthetic after my surgery.
QUESTION 5: Why Hockey?
ANSWER: I started playing when I was 6. Like many Canadian kids my dream was to be a professional hockey player.
QUESTION 6: How did you get involved with the Canadian Team?
ANSWER: I started playing sledge hockey In London Ontario for the London Blizzards. Over the few years after I started I was making my way up the ranks and at 15 I made the Canadian team.
QUESTION 7: What games or tournaments have you played in?
ANSWER: I have played in 2 Paralympic Games (2018,2022) where we won a Silver medal in each.
QUESTION 8: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
ANSWER: My highlight of my career thus far was playing in my First Paralympic Games and having my family over there to watch meant so much to me.
QUESTION 9: Who is your Hero?
ANSWER: My heroes would be my parents. They have taught me so much over the years about life and how to be a good person. They were so strong when I was battling cancer and that rubbed off on me and helped me get through it.
QUESTION 10: What motivates you to get up and get going every day?
ANSWER: My motivation right now is a Paralympic Gold Medal. It is my biggest goal right now and something that keeps me going.
QUESTION 11: If a young boy or girl, was facing the same fate as you did, what would be your advice to them?
ANSWER: My biggest advice is to focus on the positives in your life and do not dwell on negatives.
QUESTION 12: What is your plan after hockey is over?
ANSWER: My goal after hockey is to find a job within the business side of sport.
After I met James and read through the answers to the questions I asked in that email, I realized that since my Strokes in 2016, I have met some pretty amazing people, who are Fighters, Survivors, who have overcome tremendous odds to be the people they are today. I have found that adversity either strengthens or destroys an individual. Being around strong positive people is crucial in recovery, from whatever life throws at you, and James Dunn is no exception. James fed off the the positivity of his heroes, his parents.
As parents, that diagnoses for James at age 11, must have sent shock waves through their system, but they found a way, to be an inspiration for James, with the goal of helping him become a better person, which is every parent's dream
Well, they succeeded.
Here is a video that Hockey Canada did on James Dunn:
With people like James Dunn representing Canada around the world, we will be just fine. Plus, the next time I get the opportunity to watch Team Canada play Sledge Hockey, I will, because I know James Dunn!!
You can follow James on James Dunn (@jamesdunn4) • Instagram photos and videos
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Many opinions and viewpoints are based on my own Personal Stroke Recovery journey. As every Stroke is different, so is every Stroke Recovery. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the JGH Rehab website is solely at your own risk.