When a hiker is diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, her life’s path takes an unforeseen detour. Here, she recounts the three years she has lived with osteosarcoma and offers advice.
When I got an osteosarcoma diagnosis in September 2018, I was a very active 21-year-old. I had just gotten back from a trip to Whistler, British Columbia, where my boyfriend and I had spent a weekend hiking trails in the mountains. Once home, however, I started experiencing awful knee pain. I thought it was related to my recent MCL surgery, but it got so bad I couldn’t walk or bend without pain. I went to the Emergency Room; the doctor took an X-Ray and suspected I had bone cancer.
I was stunned by the ensuing cancer diagnosis, and, within a month, I started chemotherapy as osteosarcoma treatment. I did three rounds of Cisplatin, Doxorubicin and Methotrexate before my limb-salvage surgery, and then I continued with six more rounds after surgery. The surgeons had replaced the bottom half of my femur and my knee joint, and removed my entire quad muscle — thankfully, I had clear margins, and my last round of chemo was June 18, 2019. Unfortunately, I had to have another knee surgery because my kneecap had completely slipped off my prosthesis and got stuck on the side of my knee joint. But that second surgery made a massive difference to my everyday life, and I was able to do so much more because of it.
My cancer journey seemed like it took forever, but, in fact, it flew by, and the biggest support I received throughout was my mum, Penny. At the time I was diagnosed, I was living at home, and I could not have asked for anyone better to be by my side. She was able to take time off work to be with me in the hospital, where she was at my beck and call. I’m so lucky to have had that, as I know many people who don’t, especially during the pandemic.
Now that I am in remission, I feel very lucky to be where I am today. I still struggle quite a bit with survivor’s guilt, as I have many close relationships with people going through the same journey and aren’t always as fortunate. But it’s very rewarding to help those who reach out asking questions and want to know more about the process. I’ve built relationships with people from all over the world because we can relate to something that can be so difficult.
These days, I am trying to get back to doing the things I did before, such as hiking and walking and just enjoying my life. I have some trying days, of course, but I focus on the positive, which is the basis of the advice I share with those who has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma:
Keep a Positive Mindset. I truly believe that the reason I had a successful journey was because I was constantly thinking positively. No “what ifs.” I was just focused on beating the next hurdle. I found that worrying just causes additional, unnecessary stress on your body and mind.
Take it one day at time. I know how difficult it can be to wait — waiting for results or for another round of chemo, or just lying in your hospital bed waiting to get the next round over with. Once you take it day by day and check off each round or hurdle, you look back and realize how quickly it flew by.
Rest! This can be so difficult at times when you just want to be out and about like usual, but your body is going through so much. It needs its rest and recovery to be able to fight the next round.
Stay strong and appreciate your loved ones. Having a network of friends, family and/or other people with osteosarcoma to provide support is an incredible help to going through treatment.
I also would like to say thank you to all the doctors, researchers and scientists who devote their careers to finding solutions and cures to such a terrible disease that has taken so many. Thank you for helping us, thank you for spreading awareness, and thank you for giving us hope!
If you would like to help people like Emily who are receiving treatment for osteosarcoma, please consider donating any amount today.