EDGA golfer Kenny Bontz talks about overcoming cancer and addiction, and the community of golf for the disabled in this week’s player blog presented by enterprise.
Kenny Bontz, statements
“From being a Type 1 diabetic to going through cancer, being an addict, deciding to amputate my leg, and now getting to where I am in golf and in life, I want to be able to help people with my story. I’ve now been involved in disability golf for 17 years, and on the 27th of August, it will be 17 years since I’ve taken a pain pill. I know what I’ve done to get where I’m at, and I will never go backwards. All I want to do now is affect other people’s lives in a good way”.
“It’s funny how things happen in life. When I was younger, I was always the athlete of my family, and would always have a ball in my hand. In high school my friends would go out to parties and I’d be the one in bed because I had a game or practice. But when I got out of high school, I went to college and was alone for the first time. I got into a lot of trouble, and I failed out, and that’s when I went to work with my dad in the printing industry. It’s a time I often think back to, because if those things had never happened, then I would never have been laid off and taken another job up North, and I would never have had an accident where a printing roll was let go off a clamp truck and crushed me into a wall. Because that kind of saved my life. It was after that I was diagnosed after two biopsies with Ewings sarcoma – a type of bone cancer. And with me also being a type 1 diabetic since I was 11, I went to Sloan Kettering with my family for two years, and battled cancer. It was horrible, and I was 188lb when I got sick and 119lb through my last chemo cycle, but I wasn’t in a good place when it happened, and the situation made me open my eyes”.
“I then had my first major operation. The first thing they did was take my tibia out and put a cadaver bone in its place. That was an 18-hour surgery, which comes a lot of rehab and pain, and with that pain comes pain pills. That bone in my leg should have lasted 15-20 years, and I was pretty much told to walk on eggshells by my surgeon to avoid breaking the bone, but I didn’t listen. The first time it broke, I was coaching kids in soccer a couple of years later and I was clowning around with a couple of six-eight year old kids when one kicked my leg instead of the ball. I had to go back in to replace the bone, which was another 18-hour surgery, and this time they had to give me a total knee replacement – which is why I’m an above-the-knee amputee. It was successful, but again this fix was supposed to be a 15-20 year solution. In the next nine years, I had five more. And those surgeries didn’t just include my leg: Because they were replacing it with a hollow cadaver bone, they were also having to take bone chips and marrow from my hip to pack that bone”.