“You can’t change what is. You’ve got to make the best of what you have. It could always be worse,” said Scott Cohen. He added that he tries not to count the clichés in his head since his 15-year-old son, Austin, a Quince Orchard High School sophomore and football player, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in March 2014. A tumor was discovered in the femur just above the knee of Austin’s right leg. When chemotherapy failed to eradicate the tumor, which grew to the size of a cantaloupe, he underwent surgery for its removal, “then it metastasized to his lungs,” said his dad.
Subsequently, Austin has undergone approximately 20 administrations of chemotherapy, clinical trials at Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, and other surgeries including an alternative, uncommon surgery called rotationplasty performed by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Carol Morris at Johns Hopkins, where a portion of his leg was removed and his ankle joint became his knee joint. A video, “One Step at a Time” by Lindsay Simpson, describes Austin’s journey and the medical procedure he underwent to maintain the optimum use of his leg so he can return to the football field. In the video, his oncologist, Dr. Holly J. Meany at Children’s National Medical Center, noted that, “There are 300 to 400 cases a year. If you think of overall numbers, it’s really quite rare.”
Scott’s posting on Facebook about Austin’s diagnosis caught the attention of Chris and Robyn Gault, owners of Fleet Feet Sports in Kentlands. Scott, a tri-athlete, had been a customer of the store for many years and participated in many of the store’s fun runs. No strangers to hosting events to support charitable causes, the Gault’s first thought was how could we help? Robyn Gault said, “Chris showed the posting to me and I was like god, I mean, could you imagine going through this with your kid? Nobody should ever have to go through this.” They presented the family with the idea of a run/walk in honor of Austin to assist with mounting travel and medical expenses.
Fortified with Fleet Feet’s slogan “The power of running for good” Crush Cancer for Cohen: Pub Run & Walk was born. The event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. beginning at Fleet Feet with pub stops for ice-cold beer samplers first at Quincy’s, then Pinky & Pepe’s Grape Escape, Noodles & Company, The Wine Harvest, and Coal Fire for the end party where there will be happy hour prices on food and drinks. A non-alcoholic sports drink will also be available at each stop.
Depending on the route selected, participants can run/walk 2 or 4 miles. The long route includes Quincy’s. The shorter route is 2 miles within Kentlands. Cost is a $20 donation per participant. “The entire $20 goes to the charity,” said Robyn, “and all the restaurants have generously donated the beer. Typically, people hang out afterwards and socialize, and then they’ll buy their own beer and food after the free beer.” Brooks running shoes and apparel company is the event’s sponsor. The first 200 people to sign up will receive a pint glass featuring the Brooks and Fleet Feet logos.
Austin was free of cancer until a scan during clinical trials at New York’s Sloan-Kettering Institute this past July detected a reoccurrence of cancer in his lung. His treatments will continue locally at N.I.H. in Bethesda.
“He’s doing fantastic,” said his dad. “If he was wearing long pants you wouldn’t know anything except a limp and you would have to ask him why because he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. He doesn’t really want to talk about it too much. He just wants to live his life, which I think most people eventually get to that point where it’s like, OK, enough of this, let’s go ahead and kind of move on.”
Scott said that along the journey through Austin’s diagnosis, surgeries and treatments he “marvels at what people complain about now.” He finds himself teaching lessons about perspective. “When people complain about things, it’s more like I think a little taste of perspective would do you good … let me tell you a story … so I don’t think you have it so bad. I’ve taught them perspective whether it’s me or some story that I’ve heard. … It could always be worse.”
Fleet Feet’s fundraiser underscores the coming together of community the Cohen family has experienced. In the Simpson video, Austin’s mom, Miriam, noted, “I feel like they put their arms around our house and just held us tight.”
Scott said, “You know the saying, ‘It takes a village?’ That’s really shown through with everything that’s been going on with Austin. People come up to me and say, ‘I’m sorry with what you’re going through.’ I’m not really going through it, if you will, he’s really the one that’s going through it. I’m just along for the ride and provide what I can for him when he needs it so … support … it’s just knowing there are people out there and that there’s still some good in the world … that cliché, you know.”
Austin with his camera will be on the sidelines with QO’s JV football team this fall, documenting the season and enjoying the camaraderie of his teammates. In an Aug. 19 Facebook posting, Scott wrote, “We are incredibly thankful that Austin continues to fight off the field just as he did on.”
For more information, watch a video about Austin’s journey at www.monumentalnetwork.com/videos/austen-cohen-123114 and visit www.fleetfeetgaithersburg.com/calendar/pub-run or contact Brittany at Fleet Feet, 301.926.6442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.