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Recent amputee, Rigel (rhymes with Nigel), gives a thumbs up after surgery. Photo: Renee Haxby

When life throws a curve ball, it helps to live in a community like the Key Peninsula. So believes Renee Haxby, who has lived here for nearly a decade.

Her son Rigel (named for a star in the Orion constellation) Greenway was diagnosed with a slow-growing bone cancer, an osteosarcoma, in 2008 when he was 14. His treatment was surgery, a complex amputation and reconstruction of his left leg. The reconstruction became infected and over the next several years, he required additional surgery and intravenous antibiotics. The treatments impacted his education and although he attended Peninsula High, he did not complete his high school education.

But once the infection finally cleared, he declared his independence, going on what his mother called the “big adventure.” He went to Eastern Washington, where he built fences and operated heavy equipment; he fished in Alaska and starred in three episodes of the TV show “Deadliest Catch.” He returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2015.

Last spring, Rigel had increasing pain and testing showed that his osteosarcoma had recurred, this time in a more aggressive form. He underwent chemotherapy and in early November, his left leg was amputated. His mother said that he faced that challenge with strength and humor, making a video he titled “Hi from Mr. Stumpy.”

Haxby is grateful for the support of the local community and for Rigel’s high school friends, who have remained in touch and have been very supportive. Rigel has been unable to work and has moved back home. He’ll get social security and is able to get medical coverage through his stepfather’s plan. But they have needed furniture and weatherizing for his living space. Neighbors helped dig footings for walkways needed for wheelchair accessibility.

Haxby has raised funds online through GoFundMe and Facebook to help cover the costs of renovations not yet covered. And she is especially grateful to Toni Jacobson, who brought equipment from Angel Guild; to Susan Mendenhall from KP Cares; and to Ron Pierce, Jeff Barnaby and Jeremy Larcom and his workers, who helped dig the sidewalk for footings and new concrete.

Said Haxby, “This will be an ongoing journey. But after all, it is our challenges that mold us into who we become as individuals. I hope that Rigel will become a man who can help others get through difficult situations because he has already gone through it.”

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