My name is Wendy Sommers, and at 25 years of age I was diagnosed with myxoliposarcoma in my upper left thigh. I underwent a biopsy, followed by wide resection and finally radiation therapy.
I never had a recurrence of that first cancer. However, when I was 28 years old I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the same leg, this time on my tibia behind my knee. At that time I lived in New York City and I was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
My options were presented to me as:
- limb salvage surgery
- knee fusion
I opted for limb salvage surgery. I was sure if I had an amputation at 28 years of age and single, no one would ever fall in love with me. Of course hindsight is a great thing. If I had it to do over, I would have an amputation.
You might be wondering why I have changed my mind.
Well, it’s because I would have had more options to be athletic and I might have halted the disease once and for all. As it was, I suffered a local recurrence about 3 1/2 years later. Once again I was operated on at Memorial Sloan Kettering and I did not have any adjuvant therapy. They did a wide resection and grafted a vein from my right leg to save my left leg.
That was about six years ago and I have not had another local recurrence. However, about 3 1/2 years ago I suffered a relapse with metastatic disease to my right lung. I had a thoracotomy where they removed part of my right lung and I felt good. I still received no adjuvant therapy. A year and a half later I had more metastases in my right lung, chest wall, and pleural cavity. I once again underwent a thoracotomy to my right lung and surrounding area.
Seven months later more disease appeared and I was now a candidate for chemotherapy. This was now April of 1996 and I decided to go through an egg harvesting procedure over the summer, as well as get married before I started my chemotherapy.
In September of 1996, I started chemotherapy and I was given a high dose of cis-platinum and adriamycin in my oncologist’s office. I had a very bad reaction to the cis-platinum and was home in bed with an IV for nine days. I was supposed to be receiving treatment every three weeks but mine was more like four to five weeks. The following three treatments were high level ifosfamide and adriamycin, which were given over the course of five days in the hospital.
As almost all people on adriamycin do, I lost my hair in the two weeks following my first treatment, as you can see from my picture at the beginning of this article.
Losing my hair while in the shower one morning was extremely depressing and I was very sad. My husband was golfing that day, so I was home alone. I had no one to cry with me and I felt very sorry for myself. The part that was even sadder was, that I hung onto the last few pieces of hair for a long time.
I looked kind of like the Pigpen character from Charlie Brown.
Finally, while in Amsterdam doing an alternative treatment, I shaved my head clean. I wished I had done it sooner. It felt great to massage my smooth bald head. I found that others liked touching it too. At any rate, I wasn’t brave enough to go out into public without a wig. I really admire people who do, however. When my hair finally started growing back, in a different color and texture, I was thrilled to get rid of my wig.
In August right before I was to begin chemotherapy, they found more disease in my lung and surrounding area. The plan was to do the chemotherapy and see if it shrunk and or killed the tumors. When I had my third surgery to my lung that January, it showed that the chemo was having very little affect. They decided to remove the tumors and put me on a regimen of high dose Methotrexate. Methotrexate was much easier to tolerate than Ifosfamide and Adriamycin had been. The only downside was that I had to go into the hospital for a couple of days each time. I had only three rounds of Methotrexate when I was scanned and more tumors appeared. I was taken off the chemo and scheduled for another surgery.
On October 2, 1997, I had my fourth lung surgery. This time they removed the lower lobe of my right lung and six of my ribs. I am now the proud owner of a mesh and plaster custom built chest wall. This time it took me five weeks to recover at home in bed and on the couch. I now want to briefly mention the evils of daytime television and how that helped me to ultimately get well. If daytime television had been at all appealing, I would probably still be at home recovering. Following this last surgery, radiation therapy was recommended.
I began radiation therapy in February had 18 treatments, and was finished in March. I had had radiation therapy previously, but it didn’t make me nearly as sick and tired as this treatment did. I was tired all the time and I still have to take naps frequently.
As of this writing (April 29, 1998), I am happy to report that it’s been seven months and no recurrence. That may not sound like a long time, but to me it’s the best thing that’s happened to me since my Mom brought home a Volkswagon bug for me when I was a junior in high school. Of course with the new beetles out, I wish I still had my old one.
I hope my story gives some insight as to why I started the Sarcoma Foundation….
Don’t ever give up!
Wendy passed away after her long struggle with sarcoma. Her spirit lives on in the work of the Sarcoma Alliance.