I first learned of the tumor in my tibia in the fall of 2008. It was small then, not painful, and not likely to be cancer. Just a thing that’d apparently been with me for a while. My Ultimate Frisbee career was just starting to take off, so I decided I’d ask few questions and just play through.
But I really started to feel it the weekend of the Fourth of July in 2010. Playing in a 2,000-player Ultimate tournament outside Seattle, I noticed I needed some extra ibuprofen for my left leg on the morning of day three, and I sat myself down on the sideline. Even icing it in elevated, snow-capped Crater Lake on the way back through Oregon didn’t abate the swelling or the developing limp. There’d be no Kerri Strug miracle for me.
Throughout my ensuing treatment, I dreamt about running and getting back on the Ultimate field – the deep cuts, the throws, and especially the defensive plays. I had identified as an Ultimate player since high school, and maintained that self-perception throughout treatment. While it seemed counterintuitive, I ultimately realized that amputation would actually afford me more mobility than my alternative treatment option. That was a big mental step toward getting back on the field.
It’s hard to tell my story without mentioning the role my prosthetist played. When I met Mark Hopkins (of Dankmeyer) at my pre-op appointment, the path to playing again began to take shape. Mark was able to temper the anxiety I felt about what was to happen for me between the operating table and the Ultimate field. The whole team at Dankmeyer has reflected that attitude and support as I’ve worked with them over the last several years.
Whether it’s Ultimate, or chasing around a five year-old, or just walking from the train station to work – I’m happy to be able to do it. Whatever it is you want to do, tell the staff at Dankmeyer and trust them to help you get there.
Watch Sumner play some Ultimate Frisbee here: