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Hockey player fighting cancer skates a last time before amputation

Bretton Chitwood of Lynden is fighting bone cancer. The disease will mean he will lose a foot to amputation. But he recently had one last chance on the ice with his teammates. KOMO News photo

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Bretton Chitwood’s dream has always been to play in the NHL. Now his focus is just getting back on the ice.

The 15-year-old from Lynden, Wash., is a passionate hockey player. He calls the Bellingham Sportsplex where he plays “a second home.” Teammates call him a scrappy goal scorer. He’s helped his Bellingham Renegades to several titles.

But now Bretton is fighting for his life.

A broken leg put him in the ER last year. After a slow recovery and many tests, in May doctors finally diagnosed Bretton with osteosarcoma – bone cancer. He has a tumor lodged in his right heel.

Bretton has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy. Still doctors decided they will have to amputate the hockey player’s right foot to keep the cancer from spreading.

“It sucked at first,” Bretton said. “But I learned if you bring humor into it, it’s not that bad.”

Bretton smiles wide, laughing about the many pranks he’ll pull with an amputated foot. He says a “robot foot” will make him different, and he wants to stand out.

But he also wants to play hockey, which is where he team came in.

When his coach, Larry Macdonald, found out about the pending surgery, he organized one final practice for Bretton to join his Renegade teammates on the ice. It all unfolded Wednesday.

Bretton laughed with his teammates as he wiggled his right skate over his swollen foot for the final time. He took the ice, and ended up winded within a couple minutes.

But his voice seemed to elevate above the others.

“I don’t like to take breaks, you know me,” he told family.

Meanwhile a crowd watched from behind the glass, celebrating their friend and family member.

“This just can’t be the last time he laces up those skates,” his mother, Kara, said through tears.

That is hard to predict. After Bretton’s surgery, 20 rounds of chemotherapy lie ahead. But Bretton is up for it.

“I’m going to win,” he said. “I’m going to beat cancer. I think the fight on the ice is harder.”

Bretton hopes to return to the ice one day soon with a prosthetic foot. In the meantime, what a way to go out. With a smile more graceful than any footwork in the world.

Bretton’s family says the community has pitched in so much to help with Bretton’s medical costs. You can find out more by clicking on this link.


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