It started when I was training for a half-marathon in January 2010, within a month, the pain in my leg was getting unbearable. I went to my doctor who, without examining my leg, said I was training too hard, and likely just needed to rest my leg for a bit, and I was getting old. At age 42, I was a little older than a lot of runners. But, the pain is so specific, I insisted, it is "right here" I pointed, at the top of my tibia, below my knee. Nine months and many visits later, I was told by the doctor that it was a stress fracture. A few weeks after that, I was unable to stand or walk, I stumbled in to her office on my "stress fracture" crutches and demanded an MRI. Later that day, I was closing in on my 3rd hour of sliding in and out of an MRI tube, with a variety of specialists moving in and out of the viewing room behind me, when the tech finally told me to go back to see my doctor. Immediately. She was waiting in her office for me.
By now, it was late and I was scared. I walked into my doctor's office where my x-ray was illuminated on the monitor. She started, "Now, I know what you are thinking...cancer, it likely...:". I stopped her, "I am no doctor, but THAT is definitely cancer!". I left and called my husband who dashed to the physician's office and simply hugged my while I sobbed. We were just two years post- chemo and radiation for his head & neck cancer. We have three daughters at home, three dogs, two careers - plans. We had plans. How could this be?
The next morning, my doctor called and informed us that we would have to see a specialist, and the closest one was five hours away. We read online that when it came to bone tumors, you MUST go to a Sarcoma Center. We made an appointment and in less than 24 hours, we were in NYC getting admitted to the hospital for a bone biopsy under general anesthetic. I woke up in the Recovery Room with my surgeon and husband next to my bed telling me that I have osteosarcoma.
Within two days, John and I were sent to the pediatric day hospital to meet my oncologist. We were told that osteosarcoma is a pediatric primary bone cancer, and age notwithstanding, my treatment would take place in the pediatric hospital. It was after-hours when we arrived in the remarkably quiet, cheerfully colored, brightly lit pediatric waiting area. We took our seats next to a large tropical fish tank. This couldn't possibly be real life, could it? Shortly after arrival, we were seated in a large office with a team of sarcoma experts explaining what osteosarcoma is and that the treatment - my treatment - would be harrowing. Three, possibly four chemotherapies would be infused, 30 rounds in total, in the hospital over nine months, if indeed, I lasted that long. For at some point in treatment, a decision would need to be made if the chemo or the cancer are killing me faster (I'm paraphrasing here). It would be debilitating. Forget every other cancer story you know - THIS is not THAT. You will need to stop working. You will need help at home - lots of help to get through this. Within a week, I had a dual -port-o-cath installed under my collarbone with a tube in my jugular and the other in my aorta. I was admitted as the lone adult in the pediatric hospital amongst sick - even dying - children, receiving my first round of chemotherapies.