Against the Odds

“Damian Buchman is my hero. Anyone who can survive physically and mentally not just one, but two bouts of a rare form of cancer is super human. Today he takes it a step further by devoting his life to helping others with disabilities.”

Sinjin Smith, Volleyball Hall of Fame member and TAC advocate

Just three days before his 13th birthday, Damian Buchman was diagnosed with osteosarcoma — an aggressive, rare, and deadly bone cancer — in his right leg. Against steep odds, Damian was treated successfully, over the course of 11 months, with surgery and extensive chemotherapy. Then, just seven months into his remission, he was diagnosed again, this time in his left leg.

The outlook was grim. At the time, not a single patient anywhere in the world was known to have survived bi-lateral osteosarcoma. Again, Damian bucked the odds. After enduring another round of surgery and chemo, he has been in remission since June 1993.

As a one-in-a-billion survivor (today only a handful of people worldwide have survived his diagnosis), his battle remains never-ending. In the years since his “recovery,” he has undergone 20 major knee surgeries, including a variety of replacements and revisions. His resulting disability gives him unique insight and passion into his quest to help and inspire others who face physical challenges in their lives.

His vision for The Ability Center is only his latest effort. For a guy with two really bad knees, Damian is very hard to slow down. Whether he's playing and competing in a variety of adaptive sports (including volleyball, mono-skiing and basketball, to name just a few); working with kids at various camps; or founding organizations such as Adaptive Scholastic Athletic Program (ASAP) and The Ability Center, Damian always goes all out.

“Within reason, I’ve never said, ‘I can’t.’ I’ve always tried, and I’ve always given it my all. And it’s encouraged me to push [others] as a counselor, and say, ‘Failure’s not an option, don’t give up. Always try it.’”

Failure, Damian emphasizes, is also not an option for The Ability Center.

“This thing’s going to happen,” he says with bracing confidence. “It’s just a matter of how, when and where. But it is going to happen. Because people need it. Wisconsin needs it. America needs it. And you know what? Because I need it, too.”

After all Damian has been through and overcome, can you think of a reason to doubt him?

Didn’t think so.