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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of April 2 - 8, 2003


High school senior faces cancer’s challenge

Rare disease doesn’t stop George Linev, who wants to travel

Express Staff Writer

George Linev is a busy guy.

It was 7 on a Saturday night when I first met him. We had attempted earlier meetings, but all were cancelled on account of George’s full schedule.

George Linev enjoys an outing in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area a couple of years ago. Courtesy photo

While many high school students were probably headed out to the movies or to friends’ houses on this rainy Saturday night in March, George was just readying himself for work.

Just another challenge.

In the spring of 2000, George was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of malignant cancer. But this young man lives his life in defiance of his illness.

George was visibly fatigued when we sat down to talk. He perked up with some coffee as he prepared for his all-night job at the nearby Blaine Manor in Hailey where he has been a nurse’s aide for six months.

He is also a senior at Wood River High School and manages to balance this rigorous schedule of exhausting night work, high school and nursing classes through the College of Southern Idaho. Before his mother moved to Idaho, George lived the first years of his life in Bulgaria.

After his sudden diagnosis three years ago, George underwent two major surgical procedures that took a physical toll but didn’t conquer his spirit.

One surgery involved over four specialists from different fields. Once the surgery was complete, a large malignant tumor had been removed. Along with this trauma, various areas of George’s abdomen were cleared of possible metastasized cancer and a "port" had been implanted in his shoulder to accept the eventual intravenous chemicals of chemotherapy.

For many cancer patients, the treatments are often as grueling as the illness itself.

As we talked, George reflected on his radiation and chemotherapy with blunt stoicism. Chemotherapy does, however, severely compromise a patient’s immune system; George had to leave school and be tutored at home for extensive periods.

The illness has been life altering in many ways, especially in terms of George’s athletic life.

For the first time in his life, George was forced to remove himself from the soccer field —from the game he loves.

"I first met George at indoor soccer in Hailey. I saw talent and invited him to play on Sawtooth United," said George’s coach and friend Victor Vandenberg of Ketchum.

Vandenberg describes George as an eager player who "couldn’t stand to sit out—he just had to play."

But as quickly as George had been invited to play on the valley’s local club team, he was diagnosed with cancer and had to do the thing that pained him most. He had to sit out.

Sitting out didn’t mean just warming the benches for Linev. George was rushed through surgeries and treatments designed to save his life.

But he never forgot that he was a member of a team.

The week of George’s second major surgery was also the week of Sawtooth United’s semi-final game in the President’s Cup soccer tournament. Despite being bed-ridden following the procedure, George was determined to make it to the game.

"I didn’t really expect him to make it," said coach Vandenberg. "Despite his determination—I was skeptical—it was a doctor’s decision and it didn’t look too promising."

Assuming George couldn’t make the game, United’s coach explained the severity of the situation to the team. "You could tell by the look on their faces that they knew this was more important than any soccer game—they all wanted to go see George in the hospital—but there was a game to play."

Then the improbable occurred.

"George beat us to it," recalls Vandenberg, as surprised as anyone to see Linev walking across the field to stand with his team.

His mother, Kristin, remembered, "George said ‘I’m going to this game.’ They got him on the wheelchair but he refused to use it, so he walked all the way across the field and stood for the entire game."

Sawtooth United players, inspired by their teammate, went on to win that game and the tournament.

The tournament gained a new meaning for the team. Its championship trophy was eventually given to George at the season-ending banquet.


Living with cancer

The ongoing pain of treatment has become irrelevant to George. He doesn’t like to talk about his illness and what’s he’s been through. Instead, he stays focused on facets of his life other than cancer.

When circumstances forced him to sacrifice his love for soccer, George channeled his passions into music.

His interest and success with the guitar has proven worthwhile.

George has become an accomplished player who cites David Gilmore, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood as influences.

He has ambitions to continue studying music at a nationally recognized school such as Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute or Boston’s Berklee School of Music.

Since delving deeper into learning this instrument, George has played in Embryo7, a local band. He’s also been an accompanist for a Los Angeles-based band at the "Share your Heart" Ball, a fundraiser hosted by Rob and Chris Cronin of Hailey earlier this year.

The event raised money for Camp Rainbow Gold, a summer camp for children with cancer, as well as the Idaho chapter of the "Make a Wish" Foundation.


A dream trip

Helped by fundraising and even anonymous donations, George and his family have found the Wood River Valley to be a place of warmth and support.

At one point following that dramatic soccer season three years ago, an anonymous benefactor donated a trip for George and coach Vandenberg to go to Chicago to see George’s soccer icon, Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoichkov, who plays with the MLS Chicago Fire.

Earlier this year, yet another act of kindness has generated a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for George.

A still-anonymous member of the community has nominated George to be part of the "People to People Sports Ambassador Program."

Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this foundation fosters the communication of children worldwide and offers the opportunity to play sports and travel in a foreign nation of their choosing.

The program could give George the chance to play at England’s Old Trafford Field as part of the Liverpool Knowsley Classic Soccer Tournament this coming summer.

The nomination was enough to show George the warmth of his community. But sadly, the nomination alone does not cover the costs for the family.

George has expressed gratitude towards, "the people in this valley—I know they are very generous," and he hopes that with their help he will be able to afford this enriching experience abroad.

"Along with the physical damage, the cancer experience leaves a deep scar mentally on every human being, but especially our children," George’s mother has said.

The family hopes that the community will continue its support by offering monetary donations, of any amount, to the fund established by the Sawtooth United soccer club at the Bank of America.

Cost of the trip is about $4,000, of which $2,000 must be raised and paid by late April.


Where to send money

The account is named "The George Linev Fund." Anyone can donate money with or without offering a name.

The account number is 31567514.

Donations can also be mailed to the family’s address in Hailey. It is George Linev, P.O. Box 2564, Hailey, ID 83333.


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