Sarcoma Patient Spotlight

Dylan grew up heavily surrounded by sports.  He started playing basketball from the age of 4 up until his diagnosis at 23. Dylan would play 2-4 days a week if he could and everyday at school.  In 2016, Dylan had surgery on his patella tendon after it tore off the bone playing basketball.  This was Dylan’s first operation on his knee.  

Fast forward to 2019, Dylan was playing in a basketball game one night in June and went up for a layup, landing awkwardly and feeling instant pain in his knee. At first, Dylan thought he had torn his ACL and went straight to the hospital to have it assessed.  At the hospital, Dylan was sent home after there was a CT and X-ray done.  Dylan remembers receiving a phone call the next day where they told him he needed to do some more tests. He thought nothing really of this and still thought his ACL was torn.  The next tests were MRIs with and without contrast. 

After these MRIs, Dylan received a call to come back to the office to discuss his test results, where they advised Dylan that there was a lesion in his femur bone.  It had typical imaging findings of a cartilage lesion known as a chondrosarcoma. He was told it didn’t look too aggressive, but they wanted to do a biopsy to see.  Dylan’s current surgeon was consulted on this, and thought this lesion may be cancerous – a chondrosaroma.  He requested a PET scan to confirm the malignancy instead of doing a biopsy, worried that it had a higher chance of spreading from the procedure or contaminating the surgical field.  Dylan’s next appointment was to discuss the next plan of attack, a bone transplant for his femur.  

Dylan remembers this conversation so clearly to this day.  He was told that he would never be able to play basketball, run, jump or really perform any physical activity again. Dylan cried and felt it was more because of this news, than the latter.

Dylan had to wait 4 weeks for the surgery and the donor bone was flown in from Australia.  The surgery took place in July and Dylan was hospitalized for 2 weeks for recovery and rehabilitation, where he was taken good care of.  Dylan was unable to walk for 6 months, and used a wheelchair while the donor bone was trying to bind to his bone.  During his recovery, he ended up getting a Staph infection, in which he was hospitalized again with antibiotics to get the infection under control.

Fast forward 3 more years and Dylan has had more than 12 operations on his knee due to complications in the recent months.  Dylan recently had a full knee replacement with a custom femur bone.  Both of his surgeons were reluctant to do this procedure because of his age and the replacements only lasted around 10 years.  The surgeons were worried about this because if they cannot eradicate the infection Dylan is at risk of needing an amputation in the future.

Fast forward 3 more years and Dylan has had more than 12 operations on his knee due to complications in the recent months.  Dylan recently had a full knee replacement with a custom femur bone.  Both of his surgeons were reluctant to do this procedure because of his age and the replacements only lasted around 10 years.  The surgeons were worried about this because if they cannot eradicate the infection Dylan is at risk of needing an amputation in the future.

We thank Dylan for his courage in sharing his story and hope it sheds light and wisdom to others that may be able to relate to the experiences of patients diagnosed with sarcoma.  Limb salvage surgeries can help improve function, but can have many possible complications and need for future surgical procedures unique to each reconstruction option and location in the body.

Story write-up by Zach Nylund and Manas Sharma, Albany Medical College students.

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