Diagnosed with osteosarcoma at a young age, Tim Van Hoorenbeke had a tough experience. But instead of letting it define him, Tim leveled up his life. Join us as he shares his story of resilience, his fight for better AYA care, and the sunshine that keeps him going.

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Tim Van Hoorenbeke, 28 years old and I have lived in the beautiful city of Antwerp, located in the north of Belgium, for my entire life.

What’s your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. It is mostly found within the AYA-population as it strikes people in their teen years in most cases. The original tumor was located in my left knee, alas I also relapsed three times with metastasis in my lungs and vertebrae.


How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

At the end of 2014 I felt some discomfort in my left knee, as I was sporting a lot at first, I thought it was a sports related injury and it would get better with some rest. Unfortunately, during the exam period in January of 2015 I also felt pain while I was studying and sitting still. I contacted my general practitioner and he ordered an MRI. I had to wait a while to get hold of an appointment to get the MRI done. In the beginning of February the MRI was taken and then it was clear what was wrong, a tumor was growing inside of my left knee.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

The two most important things were my parents and my friends. I was treated in Leuven in one of the biggest hospitals in the country. Although this was not near Antwerp my parents came to visit me every day while I was in the hospital, I believe this made our bond even stronger than it already was. My friends also did some crazy things like bringing a microwave to the hospital so we could eat pancakes, reserving a table in the cafeteria on my birthday so we could all eat cake (there were about 15 of us).


If you were to meet yourself the day you heard a diagnosis, what would you say to your younger self?

I would love to say two things. ‘Don’t go googling stuff’ and ‘I know it feels like your life is falling apart right now, but just keep your head held high and it will all get better’. I think the first one speaks for itself as we all know what a bad doctor Google is. I always had the mentality of pushing through everything that came my way and looking back it was the right one for me so that is why I would say the second thing too.

What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?

I think the main goal of all the people involved is to improve care for the ones who will unfortunately be confronted with cancer in the future. For me there are two important topics: the right to be forgotten and the minimum standards of care for AYA care. Belgium is one of the first countries in Europe to implement the right to be forgotten and we are even improving the way it works. I hope we can bring this to every European country. For me the minimum standards of care is about working bottom up, so our point of view can be implemented into policy that will drive change across Europe.

What do you do in your free time?

Since I have two prostheses, one in my knee and one in my upper back it was hard to find a sport that suited me. Recently I have started golfing and I have to say I love it! You can focus on the ball and everything around you just disappears and it does feel good to whack a ball a few 100 meters away (hopefully in the right direction). Also, the small element of competition makes it extra fun.

What is your favorite motto in life?

“You always have a choice”, it comes from a show I love called Suits, but I just love the message behind these 5 words. Whatever life throws at you, you have a choice on how to respond and nobody can take that away from you.

What makes you instantly light up?

Sunshine! I love summery weather and it always gives me an extra boost. When I know the weather will be good, I get up easier in the morning. Unfortunately, in Belgium we have a lot of rain and as stupid as it sounds it does affect my mood, I need to learn to let that go.

What makes your life feel purposeful?

I do a lot of voluntary work for Kom op tegen Kanker which is a local NGO where I use my cancer experience to improve AYA care in Belgium and I do the same for EU-CAYAS-NET. Just being able to share my story and be the voice for others gives me a huge boost and keeps me highly motivated to do better every day.

Osteosarcoma survivor Tim

Which app do you use the most on your phone?

I am not a very big social media person, but I believe Facebook is my most used app. I never post anything but some mindless scrolling helps me relax after a busy day at work. I also love watching those short videos and often share the funny ones with friends.

What is your one song to listen to?

I am a big EDM fan and people will link one song to me ‘Sun is shining’ by Axwell Λ Ingrosso. Every time I hear this song it gives me shivers because it takes me back to Tomorrowland, standing in the middle of a crowd feeling connected and all singing the lyrics of this amazing song. I believe the music video is also shot in my hometown so that makes the connection even bigger. This song just always brings a smile to my face.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch?

I just finished ‘The Rookie’ on Netflix. I love the actor who plays the main character Nathan Fillion so when there was some advertisement for this show I quickly pressed play. I was hooked immediately and finished the show in about a month or so.