By Jack Williams
This talented teenager has defied all the odds, beating cancer as a youngster to achieve his dream of playing college basketball.
18-year-old Justin Bottorff of Quincy, Illinois, has spent most of his life ensuring that the illness does not limit his physical abilities, having come down with the disease as a toddler.
Justin was diagnosed with Nephroblastoma at the age of three, after doctors found a tumor developing in his kidney.
Three days after it was discovered, Justin had the tumor removed and spent the next six months traveling to Chicago once a week for chemotherapy.
Justin, a freshman forward at Quincy University, said: “It made the entire left side of my abdomen swell up.
“It was difficult for me to have the patience to wait for all of the procedures to be completed at such a young age.
“Every week when that day came up it was just exhausting.
“I was doing things that most three-year-olds wouldn’t know anything about.”
Justin’s doctors warned him that he may face struggles when participating in sports, but he did everything he could to ensure the illness did not set him back
After watching his older brother play basketball at the YMCA, Justin decided to start playing as soon as he was old enough, not letting his recovery stand in his way.
Justin’s family relocated to Quincy when he was in second grade, where he then had the opportunity to join the third grade basketball team that his father coached.
Justin said: “Basketball has always been in my family.
“For the past 15 years, I’ve just been living my life as normal as I possibly can.
“It was very difficult playing with kids who were a year older, but I loved basketball so much that I practiced until I became good. I think I had a drive in me really early in life.
“I played on a team, went to the gym by myself, and went outside to shoot around, either by myself or with my brothers.
“By the time I was in eighth grade, I knew my goal would be to play for a college team and I spent my four years of high school preparing for it.”
It wasn’t long before Justin started thinking about taking basketball to the next level.
At a young age, he was already playing every month of the year and preparing to play after high school.
What Justin takes away from his suffering as a toddler is the fact that it has made him see life in a different way than others.
He does not make up excuses about why he can’t achieve something and he embraces being alive every day.
Justin does not go out of his way to tell people about his struggles, but he says it comes up often, especially when his teammates ask him in the locker room about the 15-inch scar across his abdomen.
When he tells the story, Justin is not ashamed, because he knows that everything he has been through in the past 18 years is something to be proud of.
Justin said: “It comes up all the time. I don’t hide it. I’m not ashamed. I’m proud of what I’ve gone through.
“I think people are surprised by my story because I don’t use it as an excuse.
“I don’t seem very different. I go out and do the same things that everyone else does.”
He added: “It gives me a mindset that anything can happen – you just have to be resilient and can’t make any excuses.
“I survived for a reason. I can quit tomorrow and tell myself that being on a college basketball team is not necessary, but I’m not going to. I was meant to do something great with my life.”
“If I knew someone with cancer who was struggling with not being able to play sports, I would tell them to have hope and strength. Life is amazing.”