Jason Garstkiewicz and his teammates from the Haddonfield Middle School lacrosse team got a special treat for lunch last week.
Brodie Merrill, captain of the Philadelphia Wings pro lacrosse team, stopped by to eat lunch with Jason and the team. Merrill had heard about Garstkiewicz's battle with cancer and wanted to lend his support to Jason and the team.
Jason returned to the team over the summer after his lower right leg was amputated and he was fitted with a prosthetic leg and foot.
Jason's ordeal started with an innocent looking bump.
On Dec. 27, he returned home from a basketball practice complaining that his right ankle hurt. His parents didn’t think much about it at the time. As a 13-year-old who is 6 feet tall and wears a size 14 shoe, such pains were commonplace.
However, after taking a shower Garstkiewicz noticed a bump on his leg down by the ankle.
“It was nothing crazy, so we thought maybe it was a stress fracture,” his father said.
Soon after, Garstkiewicz underwent tests that revealed the bump was a cancerous tumor. He was also told by several doctors and surgeons that the smartest thing to do was to go forward with amputation.
It wasn’t long before Jason was being fitted for an Ossur prosthetic and returning to Haddonfield Middle School on a regular basis. A few months later, he was already eager to get back into some competition. Jason and Gary began playing golf together a few rounds in the summer. That’s when Gary realized that nothing was going to hold his son back from getting back to the sports he loved.
“I don’t think in our wildest dreams would we imagine nine months into it he would be playing lacrosse again,” said his father, Gary Garstkiewicz. “Young people don’t get held back by what they can or can’t do. They just want to do this or do that. I was hesitant about him playing at first, not knowing how much he would be able to do, but by that time he was already playing football and Frisbee with friends.”
Reporter Eric Schwartz contributed to this report.