My 2014 started a bit differently than I had planned. In October, I moved into an apartment in the North End of Boston. It’s an old building with beautiful exposed brick, dark wood floors and “character” all throughout. I didn’t mind that I would have to climb up and down 5 flights of stairs to access my new home because walking out my front door with my morning tea and capturing a sunrise over the Boston waterfront would make it worthwhile, or so I thought.
Immediately after moving into the apartment, I began to experience an intense pain in my right hip. It started as a dull pain, that would bother me on my walk to and from the train and soon intensified to the point where I had trouble walking at all. Because I suffer from “sesamoiditis” and “chronic regional pain syndrome” of my right foot, due to a man (nodded off on heroin & driving in the wrong direction) hitting me head-on 3 years ago, I assumed the pain was arthritis of the hip from bearing weight unevenly on my affected foot.
After weeks of physical therapy & deep tissue massages, my pain worsened. After a 9 hour work day, I would get off the train and walk back to my apartment with tears streaming down my face, before even climbing the stairs.
When I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, I finally gave in to having an MRI of my right hip. On a normal day, I could sleep right through the study, regardless of the loud banging noises the magnet makes. But on this day, 20 minutes in, the tech came on through my headphones and asked me if I’ve ever had a gadolinium injection. I told him I had not, but I was fine with having it done.
Now, being in the healthcare profession, I know that the only reason a tech would inject contrast, would be if a radiologist took a look at my imaging and saw something they needed to take a better look at. So before exiting the facility, I asked for the disc.
When my imaging was read, I learned that there was a “lesion” inside my femoral neck (the top of my thigh bone). The doctor who read my imaging reached out to the chief of orthopaedic oncology and I scheduled an appointment.
The orthopaedic oncologist told me that he didn’t think my “tumor” looked scary, but to be sure I had to visit X-Ray and get my labs drawn before leaving the hospital. After that, Interventional Radiology would be contacting me to schedule a biopsy of the tumor inside my femur. In the meantime, I was told to use crutches in order to prevent pathologic fracture.
Oncology. Tumor. Biopsy. Those are 3 words I never expected to apply to me at age 26, but there I was, in a state of panic, praying for a positive outcome.
On the day of my biopsy, my Mom and sister took me Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They sat by my bedside while I got an IV, learned the play-by-play of a CT guided biopsy and signed a consent form. They were also ready and waiting when I was wheeled back out. Although my sister, the nurse, thinks I'm crazy for allowing her to take these pictures, she plays along with my antics and makes the situation much easier to handle.
The biggest fear we possess is fear of the unknown. Let me tell you, the 9 days waiting for results felt like an entire month. When the day finally arrived, and I was told that this cystic lesion was benign, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Unfortunately, it was proceeded by, "In order to successfully remove this tumor, we would have to dislocate your hip, which I am not willing to do." The surgeon went on to explain a technique he would try (alongside a trauma surgeon), which would involve scraping the tumor out through the opposite side of my leg, shaving bone off of my iliac crest and using the bone to fill the empty part of the femur before grafting and placing screws for stabilization.
But wait! There was another option. My surgeon recommended 'Sclerotherapy" as a first approach to shrinking the lesion. Sclero is a non-surgial technique for healing the type of bone lesions that I have. The Interventional Radiologist injects special chemicals into the cyst in order to promote the creation of scar tissue. This scar tissue eventually heals and hardens into the bone, healing the lesion without the need for surgery. As luck would have it, I work with the physicians who perform these treatments and I am confident in the outcome.
I'm sharing my story because I think it's easy to say "why me" during a difficult time, when the truth of the matter is that it gets you nowhere. If there were no obstacles in life we would be extremely bored. We should embrace life's struggles as a way to become a better version of ourselves.
For those of you who don't know me all that well, I am the Program Coordinator for a Speciality Clinic in a Pediatric Hospital. The cases I see day-in and day-out give me perspective. - The children I want to cry for end up making me laugh. The doctors forced to deliver bad news, provide hope at the very same time. The parents who devote ALL of their time and energy to the care of their child, express endless gratitude rather than frustration.
In the long run, this was meant to happen. This stage of my life will plant empathy deep in my heart for the families that I will be able to relate to on a completely different level. For THAT, I will be grateful.