Sarcomas are called “orphan” diseases. Most medical professionals have never seen a case of it. Most people haven’t heard of it and can’t pronounce it.
But when I was diagnosed with sarcoma I knew all about it. I had hope because I knew someone who had survived it. That person was in my own family—my dad.
My dad was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, cartilage cancer, in 1998. He had a tumor in his right arm. Fortunately, it was a slow growing tumor and was still treatable when they found it. Doctors removed his right humerus and replaced it with a cadaver bone. He has been cancer free for over 10 years.
My tumor was in my sternum. My family physician, Bruce Higginbotham, realized that something wasn’t right and sent me to Johnston Memorial for a CT. I will never forget the Friday night he called to tell us that although they were not sure what I had, it could be cancer.
The tumor was the size of a baseball. A cardio thoracic surgeon removed the tumor, my sternum, the tips of my collar bones and the tips of several ribs. I remember waking up in the intensive care unit and even though I was in terrible pain, I could breathe easier like a burden had literally been lifted off my chest. Because the tumor had actually grown outside the bone it was difficult to get clear margins and two weeks later I received the news that I would have to also have inpatient chemo and radiation.
I spent almost 50 weeks in the hospital and lost my hair 3 times. During the entire time our church family at Abingdon Bible, friends, relatives, and even total strangers rallied around our family to help us. They provided meals, drove me to the hospital, took care of our yard and washed all our laundry. And we had lots of laundry. At the time of my diagnosis our four sons were two, three, five and seven.
I found out that just because you have an “orphan” disease does not mean that you have to be alone.
I am so thankful for all the teams that have rallied around Penny for this event! I am excited about the medical breakthroughs that will be funded with the money we have raised and hope that one day no one will have to feel alone because they have a disease like sarcoma.