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Thursday December 12th, 2019 1:53PM

Everyday People: Hoschton man goes from cancer to strength

By Joy Holmes | Seth Chapman

At 11-years-old, Robbie Berry’s life journey took an unexpected turn when the seemingly healthy boy faced a life-altering illness, but it's what he did after the illness that shows his strength. 

Robbie Berry was on family vacation at the beach when he injured his knee boogie-boarding. The then 11-year-old child brushed off his injury and chalked it up as a typical accident for a kid, but his pain seemed more intense than it should have, he said. Berry mentioned the injury to his parents who told him if the pain persisted, they would seek medical attention when they got back home and that's what they did. 

Berry made his rounds to several specialists after what seemed like no doctor could pinpoint the cause of his knee pain, which landed him an appointment at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 

“They wound up pulling my dad aside and telling him what was going on and that I had bone cancer, which is called osteosarcoma," Berry said. 

According to the American Cancer Society, osteosarcoma is a rare cancer mostly found in children. Only 2% of childhood cancers are diagnosed osteosarcomas and the survival rate averages around five years.

"It's pretty hefty," Berry said. "It starts inside the bone marrow and it grows out. It can be very dangerous depending on what stage you're already in...it can kill you."

Fortunately, Berry's family caught the diagnosis before it moved past stage one osteosarcoma, but he still had to endure treatment which caused him to miss several months of school, lose friendships and be faced with a decision no 11-year-old should have to think about. 

"I was a little confused to what exactly I had," Berry said. "Once it was sunk in, I was devastated."

Berry's doctors told the little boy he would need to undergo some kind of surgery, whether it be to insert an endoprosthesis, which Berry described as "a knee replacement on steroids," or he would have to get his leg amputated above the knee. 

Berry wanted to keep his leg and endure the endoprosthesis, but he would face several surgeries and complications in the future. The doctors told the little boy he would struggle to run and be active, he said.

"The doctor wound up coming in and was like, 'Robbie, what do you want to do,' and I said 'I want to run,' Berry said. "[The doctor] said, 'If you want to run, I suggest you get your leg amputated.'

Adjusting to a prosthetic leg wasn't easy, Berry said. He had to acclimate to walking and running again, but among the challenges the young boy had already faced, he was then bullied when he returned to school.

"So I got into bodybuilding," Berry said. "I wanted to go to the gym and be like, 'Okay, well, if you're going to make fun of me, then I am going to be bigger than you so that you will stop making fun of me."

Berry not only began competing on a bodybuilding stage, but the then teenager participated in several sports, which he excelled at. Berry has aquired a plethora of awards, plaques, medals and trophies from sports such as wheelchair basketball and track and field; and of all his medals, he had one 3rd place but the rest were all 1st place.

"I won 3rd place one time and told myself I would never do that again," Berry said.   

Today, Berry's focus is on the gym, what he refers to as his second home.He felt the gym was the only place he could escape to where he felt free of judgment and like a normal person, he said. 

"Everybody at the gym is there for the same reason, and that is to benefit themselves, so that was a place I felt comfortable," Berry said. 

The gym has influenced who Berry is today and served as an outlet for the young man when he could have turned to drugs and alcohol to escape his sense of reality, he said. In the future, he hopes to serve as the same inspiration for other people who may hear his story. 

"I want to be able to touch lives across the Earth," Berry said. "I don't feel like my story was meant to be concealed. My story was meant to be shared."

Everyday People is a periodic feature highlighting unique locals with a story to tell. If you or someone you know has an interesting story, there may be a chance to be featured in our series. For inquiries, send us an email. 

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