Rene’s Story

Ewing’s sarcoma at the heel
Age at Diagnosis: 39
Date of Diagnosis: January 2007
Hospital: Kaiser in Northern California
Team: Dr. Aram Canin, Dr. Phil Wirganowitcz and Dr. Thomas Da Silva

Diagnosis: It was two weeks before Christmas 2005 and my daughter was six months old. All of a sudden my left foot started to hurt and my ankle swelled. Within hours I was unable to walk. I went for x-rays and was told I must have a bad sprain. I was given a set of crutches and sent on my way. Two weeks later the pain went away. I didn’t give it another thought.

Six months later I got the pain again. I went in and they gave me anti-inflammatory pills and within a few weeks, I didn’t need the crutches.

My foot had been swollen and tender. Three months later while at work, I got up and felt something snap. I later found out I had cracked what was left of my heel.

I was finally referred to a podiatrist. After MRI’s, CT scans, bone scan and X-rays, he decided that I had a cyst on my heel and referred me to an orthopedic oncologist. He agreed on the diagnosis and I was scheduled for surgery. They were to remove the cyst and reconstruct my heel with cadaver bone. That morning I left my mom and husband and went into the OR. The next thing I knew I woke up with a cast and I was so relieved it was over.

When I got into the car I asked my husband how it went and he told me they didn’t do the surgery. “You have cancer. They think it’s Lymphoma.” I was in total shock and disbelief. “What do you mean? I feel fine. There must be some mistake.”

After three long weeks of waiting, I was told I had Ewing’s Sarcoma: a very rare cancer and even rarer to be found in the heel.

Treatment: I was given a port right away and started chemo the next week. I was scheduled for 17 cycles. It would be every three weeks alternating one-day and five-day treatments. I was told I would be having surgery to remove the tumor after I had completed at least four treatments. My podiatrist wanted me to have it out pronto. So did I, but with Ewing’s it’s four treatments until surgery, period.

So for the next few months I talked with my doctor’s. After much thought my doctors, my family and I decided that too much damage had been done to my foot. Reconstruction was not a good option for me. Below the knee amputation was the only real choice that made sense. I was scared, but once I made the decision I couldn’t look back.

I had the surgery June 2007. It went really well. I was home in two days – no more hospital food for me! I was off of pain meds within days. I even went to the movies a week later. On my next visit to the oncologist, I was told my tumor was 100% dead. That was really good news; the chemo was working.

I got my temporary prosthesis six weeks later. I was walking with no crutches or a cane within five weeks. It was a miracle to me. I could take my daughter to the park and shopping and wherever I wanted. But the best thing of all was that I could pick her up. I hadn’t been able to do that from a standing position for over 14 months.

I get my permanent prosthesis in another couple of months. I can’t wait. Look out world.

Life now: I am still currently taking chemo. I am so lucky that I have not been real sick with it. My blood counts get a little low but that’s not so bad. I have five treatments to go – I’m in the home stretch. I’ll be finished on March 18th.

I am not currently working but keep in close contact with the girls at work. I just went to a Christmas party last night and danced and had a great time. I was given a 2008 appointment book from one of them last night and told to hurry up and get back already. I’m working on it!

I continue to do all of the things I did before my diagnosis. I try to keep my daughter and my husband’s life as normal as possible. When I get tired I just stop for a rest. I do have to say that my family here at ABC Cafe has inspired me so much. I don’t think I could have done as well without them.

Thoughts and Hints for Patients: The most surprising thing I’ve learned through all of this is that I have to let people help me. Once I did, I developed some of the deepest connections I’ve ever had with friends and family.

I’ve always tried to keep my sense of humor. Laughter through tears is a wonderful emotion. I’ve had to learn to laugh at myself.

You can make it through this. It’s not easy some days but you can do it.

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