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Brainerd teen receives wish after cancer diagnosis

David Mars had his world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with cancer in July, and it was rocked again when the Brainerd teen was gifted an all-terrain vehicle on Saturday.

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David Mars tests out his new Polaris Sportsman 570 all-terrain vehicle as his father Victor Mars watches Saturday at Power Lodge in Brainerd. The ATV was given to the 19-year-old Mars, who was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, by Wishes & More. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery

David Mars had his world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with cancer in July, and it was rocked again when the Brainerd teen was gifted an all-terrain vehicle on Saturday.

The 19-year-old hunting and outdoor enthusiast said he is in remission after battling Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in which cancer begins in immune cells.

"I'm getting my port removed tomorrow. It's what they give me chemo through. I was just declared cancer-free like a week ago," Mars said on Friday.

Wishes & More obtained an ATV from Power Lodge in Brainerd and after signing the paperwork on Saturday, Mars was granted his wish and became the owner of a 2017 570 Polaris ATV.

"Recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, Burkitt lymphoma is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated," according to WebMD.com.

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The Brainerd High School graduate said he just had a positive attitude about the disease and his medical treatment: "A lot of people got it a lot worse than I did," he said.

More than half of those with the form of cancer that is rare in the United States can achieve "long-term survival" with intensive chemotherapy.

In the U.S., about 1,200 people are diagnosed each year, and about 59 percent of patients are over age 40, according to WebMD.com, an online resource for verified medical information.

Mars will be starting his sophomore year at North Dakota State University this spring. He was supposed to start his academic studies in the fall, but had to take time off for medical treatment.

Wishes & More is a Minnesota-based wish-granting organization that not only grants heartfelt wishes to children with terminal and life-threatening conditions, but also provides each wish recipient with a $1,000 "Scholarship of Hope" that the recipient can use for higher learning.

"What I really wanted to start out with was a duck-hunting trip to North Dakota ... but I ended up getting that through the Outdoor Adventure Foundation," Mars said.

The Outdoor Adventure Foundation is a nonprofit that provides hunting, fishing, and other outdoor adventure to those diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.

"My second wish was an ATV-just so I could easily get to and from the hunting spots and what not-so I ended up getting both of my top two wishes," he said of the ATV from Wishes & More.

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"I'm extremely grateful for it. I mean I didn't think that I was going to get a wish just because my cancer wasn't extremely bad and it was curable, so it was very nice of them to grant my wish."

The Twin Cities-based wish-granting organization works to enhance "the life of a child fighting a terminal or life-threatening condition by providing extraordinary experiences ... and more."

"One of the reasons this organization was formed was to be able to serve the Midwest and the community of Minnesota and border states, which includes hunting, fishing and outdoor activities," Wishes & More President Karla Blomberg said.

"David's wish is so special because it is one of the foundation blocks of our organization and why we formed in 2004. As a local, Minnesota-based charity, we know how important wishes involving the outdoors are to our kids and families."

If a child should pass away without having the opportunity to experience a wish, the charity gives a memorial financial gift to the family to be used at their discretion. No other organization provides these additional services for children, according to Blomberg.

Mars said he noticed a lump on the inside of his neck in March that kept getting bigger. After a biopsy was performed on the surgically-removed tumor, he was told he had cancer.

"I just kind of figured it was at that point. They had removed a baseball-sized mass out of my neck," Mars said. "I couldn't think what else it would be, so I just figured that's what it was."

The former high school baseball player and trap shooter said he took the diagnosis in stride and was treated with 15 weeks of progressive chemotherapy.

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"Pretty much take what you can get because you don't really get another chance," he said of how his outlook on life has changed and his plans to become a teacher.

Past wishes have been as unique as the children who wished for them, according to Blomberg, including a hunting adventure in Wyoming, a meet and greet with Jackie Chan in China; a trip to the British Open or qualifying infant requests, including nursery makeovers.

For more information about Wishes & More, visit www.wishesandmore.org .

For photo gallery go to https://goo.gl/Vta3dj

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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