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Conner’s Journey with Osteosarcoma

Doctors quickly discovered a tumor on Conner’s leg. He had surgery to remove it and one week later was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. It was Stage 2B meaning the cancer had spread outside his bone.

Connor DeLap didn’t feel like he was making a life-changing decision when he opted to play pickleball with a colleague on his lunch break one day in February 2022. As an admissions counselor at Whitworth University, a liberal arts college in Spokane, Washington, it was easy to pop over to the university’s gym to grab a game. But when he took a bad step on the court and fell, he immediately realized something was very wrong.

Conner DeLap - diagnosed with Osteosarcoma

“I broke the femur in my left leg and I knew immediately that it was broken,” Connor says. “I told my friend and he didn’t believe me at first. He thought I was kidding because who thinks a 25-year-old is going to break their leg when they take a bad step? That raised a lot of red flags. We knew pretty quickly that something was compromising my bone strength.”

Doctors quickly discovered a tumor on his leg. He had surgery to remove it and one week later was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. It was Stage 2B meaning the cancer had spread outside his bone. Early on he was able to treat it in his hometown of Spokane. Nine months of chemo shrunk the tumor and surgery removed the cancer that remained. He went into remission, but for just under six months. At a routine check in March of 2023, doctors found the cancer was back and had spread to his lungs.

“The oncologist said to me, ‘there’s nothing we can do for you here in Spokane’ and they transferred my care to Seattle and doctors who specialize in this cancer,” Connor explains.

Osteosarcoma is most common in kids and young adults, so he went to Seattle Children’s where doctors did surgery in July 2023 to remove 13 tumors from his lungs – some as small as a grain of sand and one that was nearly the size of a golf ball. After the surgery, he qualified for and began a clinical trial of a treatment intended to ensure the cancer didn’t return.

Between August 2023 and March 2024, Connor traveled back and forth between Spokane and Seattle every three weeks. Most of the time he could drive the 4 hours there, but when the mountain roads became impassable by snow in the winter, he was forced to fly. The 11-hour infusion treatment made him sick for a couple of days, so he needed to stay in a hotel in Seattle too. Costs added up quickly, but he says thankfully, a social worker told him early on about Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

“I never had a social worker at the adult hospital but the one at Seattle Children’s has been great and finding Lazarex helped a lot. Connor works at a small college, is getting his master’s degree and hopes to work in nonprofit leadership so he says the financial support was enormously helpful. Lazarex reimbursed him $1,500 in travel costs each month, which he says covered ‘just about everything’ – gas and flights, hotel costs, transportation to and from the airport etc.

“Cancer is not cheap and you don’t have a choice. You have to say yes and figure out how to pay for things later. There’s also a lot to coordinate and cover from a travel perspective and having those funds was a huge, huge help,” Connor says. “It’s a great reimbursement system too. I’d submit on the 15th of each month and they’d process it within 30 days.”

His lungs have remained clear but in March 2024, he had to drop out of the trial because he was no longer eligible to participate when doctors discovered another osteosarcoma tumor in his leg. He’s had surgery to remove that mass and is now waiting for his doctors to decide if he should enter another clinical trial.

Cancer journeys are always challenging, but Connor admits that it can still be hard to ask for help. He says having people and organizations step in to help has been a true gift.  “I so appreciate having a social worker advocate for me and help me find resources like this,” Connor says. It has been a huge help and I hope others who need it find their way to it too.”