'A dream come true' for Philly student

Caleb Estes, left, stands with Golden State Warriors guard and two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry on Friday at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Submitted Photo

Caleb Estes saw a dream come true over the weekend when he got to meet his favorite athlete.

Estes, an eighth-grader at Philadelphia Elementary School, received the privilege of meeting the National Basketball Association’s two-time Most Valuable Player and five-time All-Star Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors.

“I was just in shock,” Estes said. “It meant a lot to me personally. I got to meet one of my biggest heroes. It felt like I was going to have a heart attack or pass out. It was just pretty cool and I could hardly get any words out.”

Estes has spent most of his life playing sports, being active and staying healthy. However, he started feeling some pain last March that would eventually develop into something unimaginable.

“Caleb was a normal, healthy kid and he played sports ... you know, the whole nine yards,” Travis Estes, Caleb’s father, said. “March of 2017, he started complaining with knee pain. At the time, he was 12. He would complain some about his knee, but he would just go right back out and shoot basketball. He was persistent and he’s not a big complainer.”

The pain continued to increase, so the Estes family decided to take Caleb for a checkup.

“After a couple of weeks of continuing to complain with that pain, we made an appointment with Dr. Guider in Loudon,” Travis said. “Dr. Guider didn’t notice anything, but just to be safe, he thought it would be good to take an X-ray. On the X-ray, you could see there was a deformity on his left femur. He started making some phone calls and he told us that this could be nothing, but that it could have the potential to be something serious, so we needed to get busy with it very quickly.”

After visiting the doctor, the family took Caleb to Fort Loudoun Medical Center in Lenoir City to complete a CT scan. The scan eventually showed Caleb had developed periosteal osteosarcoma, which is a rare primary malignant bone tumor.

{span}”The bone cancers are pretty rare, but with his being the periosteal, that’s like the rarest of the rare,” Travis said. “The good side of that is the long-term prognosis and treatments are exceptionally great, but being the kind of cancer it is, he had to have a port placed into his chest in order to do the chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital.”{/span}

{span}That April, Caleb started to undergo aggressive chemotherapy treatments.{/span}

“It was horrible for me,” Caleb said. “I just always felt bad and it made me feel very weak.”

{span}”He would go in every other week and would be admitted at Children’s anywhere from four to six days,” Travis said. “We finished those up in the first part of June. On July 5, he was admitted to UT for surgery to remove some of the bone that was affected.”{/span}

Caleb’s surgery was successful and he began the road to recovery.

{span}”After surgery, he was on crutches since July,” Travis said. “He just came off those last week because the new bone has gotten to where it’s strong enough and he’s been able to heal up. He’s not been fully released to run and jump, but he can now walk unassisted and is able to go to physical therapy.”{/span}

{span}”It’s been tough but I’m excited where I’m at,” Caleb said. “I know it’s going to take a long time, but I’m looking forward to getting back to being fully healthy again.”{/span}

{span}While Caleb was dealing with this difficult situation, his parents decided they wanted him to be able to be a normal child again.{/span}

They reached out to The Dream Connection, which is a non-profit charity in Knoxville that helps children with diseases or critical conditions in the East Tennessee region.

“We reached out to them and told them about Caleb’s story,” Travis said. “They found out that Caleb was a huge Warriors fan and really liked Steph Curry. They’ve been working since last April or May of last year of trying to get something together.

“It was crazy because one of the women that actually works there knows Dominique Wilkins,” he added. “He’s now an announcer and commentator for the Atlanta Hawks, so she called and he was willing to help out.”

Thanks to an anonymous company in Atlanta, Caleb received low-level tickets for the Warriors-Hawks game, as well as the opportunity to meet Curry, Wilkins and other players.

“They told us to go to the arena at like 5:30 and meet Dominique Wilkins and he would take care of everything,” Travis said. “Caleb got to spend about 30 minutes with Dominique courtside and watch the teams warmup. He talked to Steph Curry about Caleb, so when Steph was done warming up, he came over and spoke to Caleb. The Hawks also gave Caleb some cool stuff and we just got to enjoy a great night and that’s something he hasn’t had the chance to do as a kid in a long time.”

Caleb will be a freshman at Loudon High School in August and hopes to pick basketball back up.

“I haven’t really thought about high school that much,” he said. “All I know is I love basketball and I can’t wait to play it again.”