Freshman Thomas Clem shows us what true courage is really about

For a brief time this school year, many of us saw freshman Thomas Clem playing on the football field, sitting in the classroom, and walking in the hallways as a typical high school student. In an instant, all of this changed. During one of his football practices in the fall, Thomas broke his tibia at the ankle and needed to have x-rays taken. The radiologist notified Thomas’ family that he had seen lesion in the mid-portion of his tibia. “It was a completely incidental finding,” Thomas’ mother, Anne Clem, said. Thomas was immediately referred to Mayo Clinic where he was diagnosed with differentiated adamantinoma. More recently, that diagnosis has changed to classic adamantinoma (AD). Bone cancer is an extremely rare type of cancer, and AD is one of the rarest, making up less than one percent of all bone cancers. It is believed that AD can range from benign to malignant, and it appeared that Thomas’ was malignant. “The initial biopsy indicated that Thomas’ tumor was beginning to show malignant tendencies and in fact could be malignant in areas not in the biopsy sample,” Anne said. “Most concerning was the fact that the tumor is in the bone marrow, which has only been found in malignant tumors.” AD cannot be treated in the same way as many other cancers, as it does not respond to chemotherapy and radiation. The only options for Thomas were amputation or resection. Resection was the recommended treatment for him, and on the day of his surgery, he received a great deal of support. Two of the surgeons operating on Thomas worked to develop what is known as the Capanna technique, which they used on Thomas. “We believe strongly that all of the prayers being sent to Thomas led to the selection of these surgeons,” Anne said. “They truly are a dream team.” In terms of the reconstruction, the surgery was very successful. “The team of surgeons believes that Thomas’ reconstructed tibia will be just as strong as his original bone,” Anne said. “They are very optimistic about his ability to ultimately get back to most or all of the activities that he enjoys. Thomas’ sister, Allison, a graduate of Ames High, has worked hard to gain support for Thomas through Team TClem. She has also created wristbands with her younger brother, Ryan, that read “Life is a Game of Inches.” “Ryan is in fifth grade at St. Cecilia and his class rallied around Thomas with cards, prayers, notes, and a very cool ‘Book of Laughs’ in which they each did a page with a joke or funny story to keep his spirits up while he recovers,” Anne said. Aside from all of the support from the Ames Community, Allison received tweets from Mark Herzlich, a New York Giants football player and bone cancer survivor, the Steelers organization, ISU football and basketball players, and many ISU students on the day of Thomas’ surgery. Thomas is back at home and doing really well, transitioning to crutches and getting back into his routine. To see how he is doing each day, visit and become a member. You will be able to see pictures of Thomas as well as updates from his family regarding how each day is going. “This has been an incredibly difficult time for our family but so many wonderful things have come from it.” Mrs. Clem said. “The support that we have received from the AHS and Ames communities has given us so much strength.”