Mount Carmel High School standout Arthur Ray Jr. was set to go Michigan State on scholarship and play offensive line for the Spartans. Yet before a single snap of his college career, Ray’s life took a dramatic turn when what he thought was a harmless bump turned out to be a cancerous tumor in his leg.
In April 2007, Ray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer most often seen in teenage boys. Told he would be lucky to walk again, much less play football, Ray sought out a second opinion from Dr. Steven Gitelis, an orthopedic oncologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Gitelis is an internationally known expert and pioneer in limb-sparing surgical procedures.
Gitelis assured Arthur that he would walk again, and in doing so gave him something he desperately needed: hope.
In late July 2007, he underwent a 14-hour surgery performed by Gitelis to remove the tumor. A rod was inserted into Ray's leg along with plates and screws to hold the bone graft in place.
Rehab was proceeding well, but an infection developed (a significant risk for osteosarcoma patients). In March 2008 Gitelis operated again—enlisting the help of the Limb Preservation Team at Rush: Dr. Walter Virkus, Dr. Mark Cohen and Dr. John Fernandez—to completely remove the bone, replacing it with a cement spacer and cleaning out the infection. The tibia was reinserted in yet another procedure eight weeks later.
Arthur Ray Jr.’s hard work and determination has allowed him to rehabilitate his leg to a point that many surgeons would have thought impossible. Michigan State University honored his scholarship, and today Arthur continues to attend team work-outs with dreams of wearing his Spartans jersey on the playing field.
In appreciation of the care provided by the Rush team, Ray and his coaching staff sent Gitelis a signed Arthur Ray Jr. Spartan Jersey. The jersey was accompanied by a personal note from Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio, expressing his personal gratitude for the care Arthur has received.
The letter also included an invitation for Gitelis to join the Spartan team for their October 17 game against Northwestern University, where he and the Limb Preservation team will be honored for their work.
“Arthur has been a wonderful patient to work with over the years; his success both on and off the field is well deserved,” said Gitelis. “He is an inspiration and I have been honored to be a part of his recovery.”