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Cancer survivor who flipped coin to choose to amputate his leg now training for Paralympics

“One thing I’ve learned from cancer is that you can never give up. I was placed in front of the impossible but I chose to keep fighting."

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By Jessica Hehir-Smith via SWNS

A trainee Paralympic swimmer and cancer survivor has revealed how his life was saved by having his leg amputated - which he decided on the flip of a COIN.

Alexander Parra, 20, was a junior in high school when he received a devastating cancer diagnosis.

He was told he had to have chemotherapy for the next nine months.

Two months into the treatment, doctors told him the tumor wasn't being affected the way they anticipated.

The 15-year-old had to make a difficult decision, a knee replacement or amputate his leg.

Alexander flipped a coin and chose the amputation.

Upon amputating his leg, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread.

If Alex had chosen the knee replacement, they would never have found out it spread.

On May 17th 2017, he was declared cancer-free.

Sadly, the following year, after doing everything to make sure the cancer didn’t come back, the teen found out he now had stage 4 lung cancer.

He was given three months left to live with a 10% survival rate.

He chose to remove the tumor and spent six months at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

Alex was cancer-free again on January 11th, 2019.

With the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, he is now training to become a Paralympic swimmer.

Alexander said: “One thing I’ve learned from cancer is that you can never give up. I was placed in front of the impossible but I chose to keep fighting.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is prove the doctors wrong and defy the odds. I’ve done that now and I couldn’t be prouder."

In 2016, after months of knee pain, Alexander, from Roseville, California, USA, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, otherwise known as bone cancer.

He said: “My knee started hurting way more than usual and then all of a sudden, a huge lump showed up on my knee.

“I got a TON of scans. Any scan I could have got, I got it.

“The doctors brought me in for an appointment where they sat me down and they told me I had cancer.

“It was the last thing I expected. Who thinks their junior year of high school is going to start with chemo?

“The chemo sucked. It killed my body to cure my body.”

Alexander was given two treatment options, a knee replacement or an amputation.

He continued: “I had no idea what to do so I flipped a coin and it landed on amputation. If it hadn’t, I would be dead.

“Learning how to walk again was so hard - I had to learn how to do something that I thought I knew so well.

"I never, ever wanted to give up so I stayed positive and kept pushing as much as I could."

Although Alex finally felt free of cancer, he explained that he felt an enormous pressure every day:

“You’re never really free of cancer until you hit that 5-year-mark. The way I like to explain it is that you’re a Clorox bottle - you’re only 99.999% cancer-free until you get that golden ticket.

Fast forward to 2018, after a routine scan, and days after his graduation, Alexander was told the cancer had come back in his lungs.

He said: “I had a routine scan a few days before my graduation, walked the stage proudly and went to Disneyland for the night.

"When I got back I had a voicemail saying I needed to come in urgently the next day. They sat me down again and told me those three words all over again.”

The teen was given two options: stay in California to try treatment with the tumor still in or get the tumor out the next day.

Alexander decided to have the tumor removed.

He said: “I didn’t want to risk the cancer spreading so I took the second option.

“Kids my age are waiting for a call or letter from a college to prepare themselves for their future, whereas I was waiting for a call to see if I even had a future.

“There were always a thousand things going through my mind at any given moment and all of them were out of my control.

“I chose to laugh and smile because my mindset was the only thing I could control.

“My life was changed again after the call to say, against all odds, I beat cancer again. I was part of the 10%."

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