Sarah Conway, 13, stood in entrance of her full-length mirror in her Benton Harbor bed room and stared at her naked legs.


Her proper calf seemed a lot greater than her left. She felt certain of it.

“My household had simply returned from trip in Ohio,” Conway, now 18, recalled. “I bear in mind it nicely, again in August of 2016. My proper calf didn’t simply look greater, it felt firmer.”

When she identified to her dad and mom what she noticed within the mirror, her dad and mom took her to Spectrum Well being Lakeland Niles Hospital.

One thing undoubtedly appeared mistaken. And it was. Very mistaken.

After a sequence of assessments, X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs, docs recognized Conway with osteosarcoma in her proper fibula, an aggressive type of bone most cancers.

“At age 13, all is shiny colours and sunshine,” Conway stated. “So listening to that I had most cancers was an actual shock.”

Weighing choices

Sharon Smith, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist with Spectrum Well being, oversees Conway’s medical care.

“Scans confirmed us what gave the impression to be osteosarcoma,” Dr. Smith stated. “Osteosarcoma is a very aggressive bone most cancers. It begins within the bones, normally the longer bones such because the femur and tibia, and spreads from there.

“We see it in youngsters or younger adults, extra generally youngsters who’re African American and taller in stature, however it’s a uncommon situation with fewer than 400 youngsters recognized within the U.S. annually.”

Dr. Smith did a piece as much as see if the tumor had unfold into different bones or Conway’s lungs. Checks confirmed that it had not. The tumor had not metastasized.

“We began Sarah instantly on a spherical of chemotherapy,” Dr. Smith stated. “However even with chemo, that’s just for native management. We needed to discuss amputation.”

Conway took a breath as she recalled getting the information—an amputation.

“I used to be given a few choices,” she stated. “We talked about amputation above the knee, that was possibility one.”

“The choice I might have most popular is named the limb salvage process, however that in all probability wouldn’t have labored for Sarah,” Dr. Smith stated. “Her nerves and blood vessels have been too concerned within the tumor.”

Conway thought of the probabilities.

“That might have killed a few of my nerves and I may need simply ended up with a principally lifeless foot,” Conway stated. “My dad and mom took me to 3 completely different locations for extra opinions, however everybody had the identical suggestion. I wanted the amputation.”

Navigating the world

Medical doctors scheduled Conway for amputation in November 2017 at Spectrum Well being Helen DeVos Youngsters’s Hospital.

She would take a brief break from chemotherapy whereas her amputation healed, however then resume the therapies to make sure any most cancers cells that could be left in her physique can be destroyed.

“Sarah was courageous,” Dr. Smith stated. “She acknowledged that this was one thing she needed to do. She listened to the consultants.”

Going into surgical procedure, Conway stated she felt emotionally numb. Methods to absolutely comprehend the lack of a limb?

“I understood this was to avoid wasting my life,” she stated. “And I understood amputation was far much less dangerous than attempting to avoid wasting my leg.”

When Conway opened her eyes within the restoration room after surgical procedure, she noticed a circle of loving faces. Her household surrounded her.

“I’ve one youthful sister and three older brothers, all have been supportive,” Conway stated. “My brothers obtained very emotional about it, they didn’t know the right way to deal with it at first. And so did my dad and mom, however they’ve all been robust for me.”

When remedy from the surgical procedure wore off, Conway felt ache. However because the swelling of her leg on the amputation website went down, she started bodily remedy.

At first, she needed to be taught to steadiness with newly shifted weight.

She discovered the right way to get away from bed, the right way to use a wheelchair and crutches, the right way to use the lavatory for hygiene.

Inviting dialog

At residence, Conway’s dad and mom made some adjustments to accommodate her wants.

They moved her bed room from a decrease flooring to the primary flooring. The desk and chairs within the eating room have been rearranged to make room for her wheelchair. The bathe now had a cushty chair in it.

At college, Conway confronted the curious stares of her eighth-grade classmates.

“They didn’t ask,” she stated. “They stared. I ignored it as a lot as I may. By ninth grade it obtained higher—college students have been extra mature and accepting. But when I may inform folks something, it could be that it’s OK to ask questions. Don’t simply stare, ask.”

Speaking to others about her expertise, particularly others who had or will endure amputation, is one thing Conway greets.

“I used to be fitted with a prosthetic about two, three months after my surgical procedure,” she stated. “By now, slipping it on and off has turn out to be second nature. It’s part of me.”

Conway resumed her chemotherapy at Ethie Haworth Youngsters’s Most cancers Heart at Helen DeVos Youngsters’s Hospital. She misplaced her lovely, darkish brown locks of which she had been so proud.

“I dreaded the chemo, however the nurses at Helen DeVos Youngsters’s Hospital made it simpler,” she stated. “They turned like my second household. And the hospital my second residence.”

And as time handed, life blossomed.

Upon graduating highschool, Conway’s darkish, curly hair had grown in once more.

In August 2021, she enrolled within the nursing program at Grand Valley State College at Allendale.

“It’s my freshman 12 months and I’m finding out biology, chemistry, algebra and labs in my first semester,” she stated, smiling. “I wish to main in pediatric oncology. I wish to be the one in scrubs now.”


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