I was living in New York working for the city and going to school when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I was 21. My fiance (at the time) and I wanted a better life for our family and made the move to New Jersey where it was more peaceful and affordable to live. We were in Jersey for only seven days before I found out I had cancer. Since giving birth to my daughter, I had always had a pain in my thigh which felt like a Charlie horse. I ignored it thinking it was only bad blood flow, but an infection from a bad razor blade to my armpit sent me to the emergency room where I asked the doctor on call if there was something we could do to look into the pain in my thigh. I was given a sonogram where they saw a mass. In an emergency MRI, we found out my tumor was 9cm. I could only think about my 4-month-old daughter: "Will I be able to raise my daughter? Will her mommy be taken from her at an early age?" I was heartbroken and so terrified, but ready to get rid of this and move forward as quickly as possible.
I had to have immediate surgery to try and remove the entire tumor. I was cut from my knee all the way up into my groin. The tumor was so low beneath my muscle tissue that they had to remove a piece of my thigh. It took me several months to recover and to learn how to walk again. Once my wound had healed I had seven weeks of daily radiation and then 4 1/2 months of chemo. The entire year was filled with nothing but physical pain and emotional from not being able to take care of my daughter and missing so many first moments because I was always in the hospital. My relationship suffered, and we ended up splitting because he could not handle being with someone who had so many health issues. All of my friends and family were in New York, so it was a very lonely experience. My daughter was, and is, my only reason for fighting this disease.
Recovery and Life Now
Recovery was very painful. I got a third degree burn under my thigh from radiation, lost all my hair to chemo, and gained 20 pounds due to steroids and extra water weight from chemo. As a woman who lost her ability to walk correctly, gained weight and lost her hair, I felt very low about myself. I used to be a very social person, but now I tend to stay to myself. It still hurts to do things I used to do so easily with two good legs, but I am thankful I still have my leg. I tend to ignore what I went through last year, but as soon as I hear the words doctor, hospital, or cancer I cringe.
My last treatment of chemo was in December of 2012, and in February 2013 my MRI and CT Scan showed no recurrence. Only God knows how thankful I am to be in remission and to be able to enjoy time at home with my daughter. I have not made any changes other than making sure my daughter sees me as always happy. That's how I want her to always remember me. I know how rare and deadly this sarcoma is, especially with how large my tumor was, but I am trying to learn how to live my life again as a second chance. It's very hard not to think of what the next scan is going to show, because my surgeon made it clear to me that I have a good chance to live seven years or more. But at my age, seven years is not much and I'm still very scared of leaving my little girl so early.
Thoughts and Hints for New Patients
I would have surrounded myself with as many positive people as possible from the beginning. If you are with someone or around people who do not support you or help you in your time of need, get rid of those people. Staying happy and laughing as much as you can goes so far in recovery. If you are around negativity it makes your healing process very difficult.
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Copyright © November 2013 Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative.