Because of my orthopaedic care, I beat Ewing Sarcoma and continue to pursue my passion of competitive swimming!
Just before Thanksgiving in 2010, I was having pain in my right knee. My parents took me to an orthopaedic physician who initially thought my pain was caused by tendonitis from training with my swim team. He told me not to train with fins for a few days, take a pain reliever, and things should be fine – and they were for a few weeks.
In the middle of January, my knee started to hurt again. This time my right thigh had swelled and the pain was getting so bad that I had trouble sleeping. My parents made an appointment to go back to see the doctor and he took more x-rays and really didn’t see anything. But after seeing the swelling in my thigh, he said that I needed an MRI to get a better idea what was going on in my leg.
My MRI was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. The next morning, while I was at school, the orthopaedist called my parents and told them there was a “mass” in my leg and he thought it could be Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that strikes children and teenagers. My parents rushed to the doctor’s office. He showed them the MRI films and pointed out what he thought was the tumor.
Fortunately, my local orthopaedist used to work with John Dormans, the head of orthopaedic surgery at CHOP. I was able to get in to see Dormans first thing on Monday. I later came to know this was a really good thing because every day counts when you’re fighting a cancer that grows as fast as mine.
Dormans told me that I would need a biopsy to get a good diagnosis of whether it was cancer in my leg. I felt like my heart was going to sink right out of my body and into the center of the earth. Even though I knew it might be cancer, when I heard it from the doctor, it became real. I was crying too much to listen carefully to everything he said.
Dormans did the biopsy on my leg later that week and confirmed that what I had was Ewing Sarcoma. And so began the 14 rounds of chemotherapy needed to kill the cancer and treat me. After round number six in early May 2011, Dormans performed limb salvage surgery on my right leg. Besides removing what was left of the tumor, he removed 2/3s of my femur and my hip ball. He replaced them with a cobalt-chrome prosthesis. Immediately after the surgery, Dormans told my parents that he was pleased with the way the surgery went; he was able to get clean margins and able to fit the prosthetic. He came to check on me in my hospital room that evening before going home. Boy was I glad that was over!
After eight weeks in a brace that helped me to maintain stability in my hip while healing from the surgery, I began physical therapy to regain strength and straighten out my gait. By the end of July, I was back in the pool! Just last weekend, I swam in my state’s swimming championships for my age group and swam away with 2 personal best times in the 50 back and 100 free style races. Dormans did a great job. I can swim again!!!