Ed: Osteosarcoma Survivor
Dedicated to tomorrow's passion
When I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I didn't even know what it was. I was 21, and it was my last semester of my senior year of college at the University of Connecticut and I had to leave school.
I had pain in my right thigh and I didn't know what was going on. It felt like a charley horse and my thigh was as hard as a rock. I went to my doctor and was referred to a few different physicians. It actually took quite a while until I ended up at Yale with Dr. Friedlaender, the best orthopedic doctor I've ever met. He took a biopsy of the tumor and sent it all over the world for help with the complicated diagnosis.
I had surgery to try and remove the tumor. They removed most of it, but weren't able to remove the whole mass and it grew back. I tried some chemotherapy, and a kind of local radiation called fractionated sterotactic radiosurgery, where they target the tumor with high doses of radiation without affecting the area around it. Because the treatment wasn't successful, they amputated my leg from my upper thigh down. After the amputation it was discovered that some of the cancer had metastasized to my lung. I then had some lung surgery and they were able to remove the nodules so I was able to avoid a second round of chemotherapy. Throughout it all, my oncology nurse, Diane Dirzius helped to keep my spirits up and provided great support.
It was horrible losing my leg. My family helped me get through it. I loved playing sports - soccer, hockey, and basketball - and I was in a really depressive place for a while. But one day a man I had never met walked into my hospital room. He introduced himself and told me that he was wearing a prosthesis. I couldn't even tell. That gave me a little glimmer of hope that everything would be OK. I got a prosthesis called a C-Leg, with a computer chip in the knee. I have since redirected all of my energy into playing with my car now.
At first, after losing my leg, I was ashamed. I didn't want to see any of my friends. But they were all there and they were all very supportive. They kept trying to get me to go out with them. I felt different, but they didn't see me differently. I think if you have a good support system of friends and family you can pretty much accomplish anything you put your mind to.
During college I felt like I was going through the motions. I wasn't very ambitious. I think I was there because everyone I knew had gone off to college, and it was simply the next step in life. Now I try and make every day the best it can be. I don't worry about the cancer coming back. I'm a social worker with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and I have other people to worry about; I don't really have too much time to think about myself. Having cancer has changed my whole perspective on life.