In December of 2004, I began experiencing knee pain from what I thought was a sports injury. After months of tests and a biopsy, in May of 2005, I was finally diagnosed with bone cancer in the tibia of my right leg. I later learned that this was a very rare cancer known as mesenchymal chondrosarcoma.
I underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy at UCSF in San Francisco with Dr. Theirry Jahan. At least I had a pretty view from my hospital room! In January of 2006, I had surgery and Dr. Richard J. O’Donnell removed my right knee and part of my tibia, replacing them with titanium implants. I went through months of physical therapy in Modesto. I especially benefited from a water therapy program and quickly went from crutches, to a cane, and eventually walking on my own. I was enjoying being “cancer free.”
In 2007, I learned that my sarcoma bone cancer had metastasized to my lungs. In June, I again found myself at UCSF in San Francisco for lung surgery with Dr. Michael J. Mann. This time, I was treated with chemotherapy closer to home in Modesto. I had six rounds of chemo in 2008 followed by a second lung surgery at UCSF.
The chemo didn’t seem to be working and I began looking for alternative treatment on the Internet. I found out about a clinical trial in Southern California for a new chemo drug from Europe. My doctors in San Francisco agreed that I should give it a try. In April of 2009, I drove with my relatives for 5 ½ hours to Santa Monica to meet with Dr. Sant P. Chawla at the Sarcoma Oncology Center and begin a clinical trial with the drug Yondelis. I received treatment overnight and returned every 21 days for ongoing infusions. The Yondelis worked and reduced the size of my metastasized cancer by 25%!
I was experiencing financial hardship with all of the medical bills, travel expenses, and increased living expenses. I live on a fixed income and I had depleted my savings and required the help of family members to make the trips every 21 days to Santa Monica. In June of 2008, I found the help of Lazarex Cancer Foundation to reimburse my gas and hotel expenses. This was a tremendous help to relieve my financial burden.
In September of 2009, I had surgery at UCSF on my left lung, where they removed 50% of the upper lobe. I had a brief recovery period then more surgery in December on the right lung. These were very invasive surgeries and the pulmonary recovery was very difficult. After months of recovery, Dr. Chawla agreed to let me start a new clinical trial of Yondelis, which I will continue through 2011. The Yondelis is keeping my cancer at bay. I tried to be considered for cyberknife treatment, but I am told I will probably have to have more traditional surgery in the future.
I can’t begin to thank the Lazarex Cancer Foundation for all their help and support. Through all of this, I remained very positive and steadfast in my faith. I learned to knit and gave scarves to friend, patients, and medical caregivers. I volunteer for the American Cancer Society. My fiancée, Ron, and I are looking forward to our future together.