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Eden teen overcomes cancer, paralysis to compete in junior high track

By Ryan Aston - Standard-Examiner | May 3, 2024
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Snowcrest Jr. High's Alden Peterson, left, and his mother, Britta, pose for a photo at Weber School District's track & field finals on Thursday, May 2, 2024, at Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace.
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Snowcrest Jr. High's Alden Peterson competes in the discus event at Weber School District's track & field finals on Thursday, May 2, 2024, at Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace.
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Eden teen Alden Peterson is seen during a hospital stay in August 2021 following surgery to remove a tumor from his brain.

WASHINGTON TERRACE — Weber School District’s junior high track and field championship began Thursday at Bonneville High School and for one competitor — ninth-grader Alden Peterson of Snowcrest Junior High in Eden — just getting there was a victory.

In August 2021, Peterson was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. He had been feeling unwell for an extended period and was displaying neurologic deficits at the time; a CT scan later would uncover a large mass in his brain.

Two surgeries and 24 months of chemotherapy later, he found himself competing in the discus and long jump events at Thursday’s district-wide meet.

“Even the night he was diagnosed, I just had peace and that he was going to pull through and that he would be OK,” Alden’s mother, Britta Peterson, told the Standard-Examiner.

Alden has been similarly level-headed about the situation.

“I don’t really know, it’s just kind of my personality,” he said of maintaining a positive mental outlook. “My friends help with it a bit; family does, too. But it’s also just my personality.”

Getting to the point where he could compete, or even care for himself, was a process.

Alden suffered from left-side paralysis in the wake of his second surgery. He was walking again in a matter of weeks but strength and control continued to be issues on that side of his body. Even now, his left hand and fingers don’t work quite as they did previously.

He also missed an entire year of school, underwent radiation therapy and he’s still doing regular chemo at his doctors’ request.

Nevertheless, Alden does the things he wants to do and experience. He became a track athlete, he took up the trombone, he’s a rock-climber, and he’s already thinking about what he wants to when he’s done with school.

“I have two main career paths that I’m thinking of pursuing,” Alden said. “Marine biology and then woodworking/metalworking.”

To that end, he has been taking relevant classes and he has been invited to interview for a spot in a multi-week marine biology program in Alaska. Alden has designs on competing for Weber High School in track next year, too.

“I’m going to do high school track so I can do javelin, pole vault and hammer,” he said.

Despite the physical, mental and emotional toll that has been extracted from Alden and his family by cancer, he says that he’s feeling good and excited about what lies in store for him.

“I’ve managed fine. I get a bit tired; that’s normal. I take some medical supplements that help with energy and counteract some of the side effects of the chemo and things like that to help me,” he said. “I just feel fine. I’m not really having any thoughts about (the illness).”

And Alden’s family is taking its cues from him.

“Whenever I find those negative thoughts creeping in, I have to go back to that and say to myself, ‘Hey, before you had time to really think about this or ponder it, you had peace,'” Britta said. “Keeping that positive outlook has helped all of us.”

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