My Sarcoma Story – Chiara
Chiara’s Story: My story begins on February 26 of 2018 when I received my Ewing Sarcoma Diagnosis. I underwent treatment at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and currently receive follow-up appointments as we all as scan monitoring there. It had been a year long ordeal before I received my cancer diagnosis, as I had been misdiagnosed at a different hospital. I underwent two non-invasive surgeries there and was told I had a tumor in my femur but that it was benign and nothing to worry about. I had always been aware that something was going on in my leg as I had this deep stabbing pain traveling throughout my upper leg and hip.
When the pain came back two times after the surgeries, I knew something was wrong and that I needed a second opinion, which is how I ended up at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. They looked at my case with a new pair of eyes and did not consider what I had been treated for initially. After getting scans and a bone biopsy, I was told about my Ewing diagnosis, which at the time just took me by shock. I was somewhat relieved because I finally had the correct answer I had been looking for, but I was also upset because of the missed time. I was fortunate enough to have the tumor remain localized throughout the year and a half I had been dealing with the pain. My team explained to me what my next process would be and informed me that I would be undergoing 14 rounds of chemotherapy along with local control.
At this time, I thought it would be important to share another piece of my life with you. Before coming to Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, I was a dancer with The Washington Ballet, in D.C. The company was set to dance at The Kennedy Center two weeks after I received news from the hospital. Now you might understand how my whole life seemed to have hit a temporary wall. I had actually been dancing until the very day I was told “you have cancer”. I obviously went through stages where I was upset and wanted to be back on stage, but I started to learn to use ballet as my motivator, as a way of getting me through treatment. I completed my first 6 rounds of chemotherapy and it was time to move to local control.
I had been given two options. One, I could get surgery, where they would have to remove a pretty large portion of my femur. Here, I was told that I would not be able to dance again. The second option, which happened to be the one they were leaning more towards, was radiation. This option would give me the opportunity to return to ballet when I completed treatment. Although decision making is always tough, I always knew in my heart I wanted to take the radiation approach and hearing the reassurance from the doctors gave me a great amount of hope. I went through 6 weeks of radiation Monday through Friday along with receiving my chemotherapy.
On November 16, 2018, I completed my last round of chemotherapy and on December 17 received my NED news. I am extremely thankful to The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and all that was done for me throughout my treatment. I am thankful to have been given a second chance at doing what I love again and to my family who have been by my side throughout all of this. The journey was not an easy one, but after battling something like cancer, you gain this new profound sense of determination and appreciation. While I could barely lift my leg off the floor on my very first class back in ballet, I am excited to share my success after treatment. In September of 2019, I rejoined The Washington Ballet. My last performance onstage before treatment was The Nutcracker, and I have just finished 44 shows of that this season. I hope this inspires others, that you can put your heart and mind to anything it desires.
Words of Wisdom: For any patient that is currently battling cancer, the number one thing I learned that kept pushing me through treatment, was keeping a positive attitude. This is not to say every step will be easy, as I had my fair share of harder times, but be appreciative and thankful for the little things. Whether this being talking to a family member or friends for five minutes, or playing a card game. It is important to keep your mind busy and know that there is a road after all of this. To those that are finished with treatment, I understand that while cancer treatment is one journey, after cancer is a whole other journey. Just know that if you went through something so impactful like cancer, you can accomplish anything else you put your heart and mind to.
Role of the Sarcoma Foundation of America: Foundations like Sarcoma Foundation of America are important for future developments and improvements for both treatments and finding a cure to Sarcoma cancers. One of the most important aspects I have learned with Ewing Sarcoma, is getting the name out there and spreading awareness. Often Sarcoma is seen as something rare, but this is not realistic, especially when it comes to pediatric cancers. People don’t always know how to help, simply because they were never aware what a Sarcoma even was. With foundations and the support of the public, we can all come together to shed light on Sarcoma and aim at the same goal of making every person a cancer survivor!