Paralympic athlete thrives after sarcoma

Written by Community Health Network on 7/8/2014 6:00:00 AM

J Dee Marinko, cancer survivorBrazil may be hosting the World Cup now, but it will also host the Paralympic Games in 2016. And sarcoma survivor, J. Dee Marinko, a member of the U.S. Sitting Volleyball team plans to be there.

Marinko lost his foot to sarcoma, a rare cancer, in 2009. 

At 28 years old, Marinko was working as an Air Force supply tech in Oklahoma when went to the doctor complaining of foot pain. An MRI image revealed a cystic growth in his foot. 

After pathology testing was performed on the cyst, it showed that it was synovial sarcoma, a cancerous tumor the forms around a joint. This type of cancer is called soft tissue sarcoma because it develops in the soft tissue of the muscles, nerves, fibrous tissues, deep skin tissues and fat tissue. These types of cancer are often treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapy, but it varies depending on the type, size of the tumor, and grade of the tumor.

For Marinko, the doctors recommended amputation as the best option for saving his life. This young married father didn't think twice, “I saw my baby crawling across the floor and I thought, ‘I can’t let him grow up without a dad.’ This isn’t about me. This is about everybody around me. I have to be here for everybody else.” So, he had surgery to remove his lower leg.

After his surgery Marinko went back to work but missed being active. In college he was a wide receiver for Oklahoma Panhandle State University's football team, and was inspired to get back into athletics. But this time, it was volleyball. 

The U.S. Sitting Volleyball team trained in Marinko’s hometown of Edmund, Okla. Within a few months, he became part of the team. In 2011, the team won a silver in the Parapan American Games in Mexico. Now, the team has their sights on Brazil 2016 and Marinko, like many others, is proof that there is life after cancer. 

He told the American Cancer Society, “I’m lucky enough now to be able to represent my country in athletic endeavor – something I never dreamed of.” 

What is sarcoma?
To learn more about sarcoma and treatment of this cancer type, visit our


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