I love the strength that blossomed in me through my journey fighting osteosarcoma, and I will never give up!
In January of 2018, the night before I found out I had cancer, I fell and hit my head. I went to the doctor the next day and asked her if I was okay, and she said I was fine. I decided to ask about my knee, which had been aching and losing a range of motion for years, and she recommended I see an Orthopedic doctor. I made over 20 different phone calls to get a same-day appointment. Something deep inside me knew I needed to have it looked at urgently! God works in mysterious ways, and if I hadn’t hit my head I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor who found my cancer.
I still have flashbacks of the horrible day I had my appointment with the orthopedic doctor. He looked at me with concern and told me the words I never wanted to hear. ‘I’m sorry, you have cancer.’ My heart dropped, and I cried with disbelief. ‘How could I have bone cancer at age 25?!’ I called my mom immediately after I got the news while sitting in my car crying alone! My mom was shocked but remained positive and was a huge support for me! My fiancé, now husband, said “We are going to get through this! I will be with you every step of the way!”
I was rushed into a whirlwind of scans and tests, met my surgeon at Stanford three days later, and had a biopsy the next week. I was at work, and it was Stanford calling my surgeon confirmed I had low-grade parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. My surgeon said we need to schedule surgery! I started crying at work and had to leave work early. I was very anxious and worried about surgery! My surgeon said that with surgery alone, I should be fine as long as I was monitored very closely for the rest of my life!
On February 13th, I had an 8-hour limb-sparing surgery, knee replacement, and partial femur with tumor excision with wide negative margins (Meaning no tumor was left behind). The surgery gave me so much pain, and I was non-weight bearing for 3 months. I would think to lift my leg, and I couldn’t. My leg also had a lot of trouble bending and would hurt with so much pain to bend it. My fiancé spent every night with me at the hospital, took me to physical therapy every day, and selflessly gave up his life to take care of me! Even before we were married! My worst moment was becoming handicapped and not being able to walk or do anything by myself. I remember the first time Jose, my fiancé, took me to the mall in my wheelchair and everyone was staring at me. It was hard going from being a normal person to someone who is disabled and needed assistance with everything! I have a profound respect for people who are handicapped now!
A month later, I developed a post-op staph infection that required two surgeries and re-opening the entire scar to be washed out. I was given a PICC line for IV antibiotics every 8 hours with an at-home nurse for 6 weeks. I wished and hoped that I would get better. I felt hopeless and very sick. After the 6 weeks, I switched to oral antibiotics and went back to the hospital a few times for stomach pain!
In July and August of 2018, I had two more surgeries called ‘manipulation under anesthesia’ to bend and crack the scar tissue in my knee that wasn’t bending. I also developed nerve damage in my leg after those 2 surgeries. By this time, I thought I had suffered enough! My friends, fiancé, and family stood by my side and gave me hope. A hope that I was going to be okay and make it through it! They kept a smile on my face and made sure that I was going to be okay.
Life gave me a break from August 2018 – October 2019. I finally was able to get married after delaying my wedding due to cancer. I still had persistent knee pain and trouble with bending and walking. My orthopedic surgeon oncologist recommended total knee revision surgery with patella resurfacing to address my ongoing terrible pain. We had that planned for December 2019.
At the beginning of October 2019, I had gone in to see an ortho and they saw a spot that looked like osteosarcoma coming back. I got an emergency CT scan that showed a new tumor in the soft tissue of my leg near where my first tumor was! My heart dropped and cancer flipped my life upside down once again. October 25th, 2019 I had revision surgery and excision of my 1.3cm tumor that pathology was parosteal osteosarcoma recurrence. This time the margins were not negative. They are not sure if some cancer was left behind because the tumor was so close to the big artery vein in my leg. My surgeon was hopeful that he got it all out, and I went back to being no evidence of disease.
Life with a cancer diagnosis is a life between scans. Each scan could be the best day ever with them being clear or new shocking bad news. I get X-Rays and chest CT scans every 1-3 months and a bone scan that scans my whole body for cancer every 6 months. They are able to monitor if cancer is recurring and if my leg hardware is loosening and working right. The probability of local recurrence (cancer in the same spot) is very high. They call is scanxiety: the uneasiness associated with waiting for the results of cancer scans.
Cancer took my knee, it took half of my femur. Cancer took my ability to run and jump. It made my leg ache with horrible pain all day long. It gave me an infection and sent me to the hospital for many days and nights. It made me mourn the loss of my real leg. It was very hard to get used to my new bionic leg.
Cancer also taught me a lot. It taught me how strong I am. It taught me to cherish every day I have on this earth and that things can change in the blink of an eye. Cancer reconfirmed how blessed I am to have the most amazing loving family, friends, and husband as my support system. It taught me not to worry about the small things and that life is short.
Cancer taught me to live each day like it’s my last and to live my version of paradise every day. I love the strength that blossomed in me through my journey fighting osteosarcoma, and I will never give up! I will continue to fight this life-long battle and have realized what a precious privilege it is to be alive!
If anyone is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, is sick, in pain, or has recently become handicapped, remember to keep hope alive, have faith, and fight as hard as you can each day to get better! Never give up, stay strong, and always have an attitude that there will be a brighter tomorrow!
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