Osteosarcoma Survivor Chooses Amputation Over Chronic Pain
After six years of debilitating pain following a limb salvage surgery, Sloane Dyer, 18, decided to let go of their leg in order to move on with their life.
“I am in a lot of pain. Is there anything you can do?”
Sloane Dyer had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma in their right femur at age 12 and had undergone surgery to preserve their leg while removing the cancer. Now in high school, they remained cancer-free, and X-rays indicated that their leg was healthy. But their debilitating pain told a different story.
When they raised the issue of their pain to their doctors, however, the only advice they received was to take Tylenol or consider moving to opioids. Sloane had to wonder if there was another way.
An Initial Misdiagnosis
This was not the first time that doctors had told Sloane not to worry about their pain. At 7, when they first started experiencing leg pain, their parents thought it was due to overuse. Slone was a self-described “baseball fanatic.” When their family consulted an orthopedist, Sloane was diagnosed with Sever’s disease, a growth plate disorder that often occurs in young athletes. They were told the pain would go away with rest.
But the pain did not go away. Finally, Sloane could no longer run. An MRI revealed a large tumor growing in their distal femur. They were diagnosed with osteosarcoma in December 2016.
Opting for Limb Salvage Surgery
Their doctor recommended limb salvage surgery (LSS), in which most of their right femur and knee would be replaced with a prosthetic. When asked whether they could have a rotationplasty, their doctor, as well as the additional doctors they consulted, strongly disagreed, pushing them towards LSS.
“My doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to run or play sports, but that I would be able to dance, perform, and live a normal life,” says Sloane.
Finding Their Voice
While they healed from surgery, Sloane leaned into their side interests — singing and violin — for a creative outlet. The pain never abated enough for them to return to sports, so music became their new obsession. They eventually enrolled in an arts high school, where they excelled.
Sloane also began to connect with other osteosarcoma survivors through MIB Agents, an osteosarcoma nonprofit. Over time, they discovered that they were not alone in their osteosarcoma story. Other survivors were also dealing with chronic pain following LSS.
Choosing Bodily Autonomy
Older and armed with more information, they consulted a new surgeon at MD Anderson, who candidly laid out all their options — amputation being one of them. Sloane, now 18, chose to receive amputation on their right leg in March 2023.
“Rather than live with chronic pain the rest of my life, I chose to listen to my body. It is an opportunity to have autonomy over my body and hopefully a less painful life.” — Sloane Dyer
“Rather than live with chronic pain the rest of my life and take all these dangerous opioids, I chose to listen to my body. It is an opportunity to have autonomy over my body and hopefully a less painful life.”
After deferring college for a year because of their pain, Sloane is eager to begin studying vocal jazz at the acclaimed University of North Texas. Though their post-amputation life contains uncertainties, Sloane is confident in their choice. “I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but I do know that if I don’t do anything, I am going to keep experiencing this unbearable pain. I would rather try and fail than not try at all.”
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