Wednesday Warrior – Gianna
My husband and I were in our late-20s when we moved to Colorado after he’d graduated from medical school. Always an active, healthy person, I was juggling college, helping my husband start his practice and also a part-time job. Just before Christmas 1987, I was feeling pain in my lower back. Thinking it was due to exercise, I put off seeing a doctor until after the holidays. When I got around to seeing a sports medicine doctor, he had me take an x-ray and told me at that visit that there was a bone tumor in my left hip. He referred me to an orthopedic oncologist. I sat there, alone, receiving this kind of diagnosis, yet I wasn’t freaked-out because I still had the specialist to see and I was young and had never been sick.
After taking all the tests, my husband and I sat before the specialist as he gravely told us that I had an osteosarcoma lodged low on my hip close to my thigh. He went on to say that my left pelvis would have to be amputated and possibly my left leg! He couldn’t say for sure until he performed the surgery. At that point, I ran out of his office and into the dark, frigid, January night, with my husband chasing after me.
Shortly thereafter, I was on chemotherapies: Cisplatin and Adriamycin. My doctors and other providers at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s hospital worked as a team and met weekly to discuss each patient’s progress.
After four months of treatment, the tumor didn’t shrink enough to be able to avoid the disabling surgery. So, on June 10, 1988, I underwent the procedure not knowing if I would awaken to a missing left pelvis AND leg. From my hospital room prior to surgery that morning, I prayed to God that I could handle the disability of the left hip amputation called “partial internal hemipelvectomy,” but to please save my leg. That afternoon, I awakened to discover that God had answered my prayers. Throughout the whole experience I’d heard that if I had been diagnosed just 10 years earlier, they would have automatically taken my leg because they didn’t have the treatments available back then.
I used a wheelchair for a while and had to learn to walk all over again using a walker. Afterwards, I progressed to two crutches. None of my practitioners thought I’d ever go beyond this level, but I was determined to walk again and nobody was going to tell me otherwise! Several months thereafter, on one fine day, I was able to walk without crutches around the house. I would use one crutch for longer distances.
Throughout the whole journey, I clung to whatever and whoever was positive — supportive persons, meditation and the one provider who had an old page on his wall that stated, “More People Have Survived Cancer Than Live In The City of Los Angeles.”
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!