Olga's Story

Ewing's Sarcoma Survivor

Olga was 28 when she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma at the tibia. Her treatments included chemotherapy, two surgeries and an amputation.

I am from Russia and grew up in a big city, Moscow, with a population of 12 million people. I have been pretty healthy all my life and only visited doctors for simple colds. I am a healthy eater and have been very active in sports.

Since I was a little girl I always wondered why God blessed me with so many things but gave me huge bunions on both feet. Now I can see that those bunions actually saved my life. And this is how it is all got revealed to me.

I had a great opportunity to come to the US in 2003 as a graduate student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. It wasn't my dream, like it is for many other people, and now I know that this opportunity was given to me for the reason. I completed my second master's degree in chemistry and was accepted as a chemistry instructor at one of the community colleges in the Midwest. My life was moving forward and my hard work was finally paying off.

Olga-amputation-prostheticIn the summer of 2006 I finally decided to take care of my bunions and scheduled the surgery for the correction on both feet at the same time. Before that I noticed that I was having a little annoying pain in my left ankle, almost like I twisted, but I knew that I hadn't. I visited two different doctors about it but got the same reply: "No wonder, you have pain. I am surprised how you even can walk with such severe bunions." At this point of my life I was very active and I thought maybe I pushed the platform for leg exercises with too many weights. Later, the most interesting part of my cancer for the doctors was that this pain was somehow related with my cycles. This pain was repeating every single month at the end of the month just for 3 days and then would go away. This is why I wasn't concerning about it too much for the first six months I had it.

My bunions correction surgery went pretty well. However, I the same came back again at the end of the month. I shared my concern with my surgeon and he said: "Calm down. You just had the surgery. Of course, it hurts." And I replied: "You don't understand. I had the bunion surgery on both feet but the pain is only in my left ankle, and the pain is exactly the same as it was before the surgery." I insisted on taking an x-ray a little above my feet since we were doing x-rays of my feet anyway every two weeks after the surgery. Only now I can say that my own persistence saved my life. I would not say that doctors are bad, it is just that I am the only one who knows my body the best.

After the x-ray was taken, we waited about an hour in the office. I really started to worry that something was wrong. The doctor got back, he placed the x-ray film and showed us a dark spot on my bone on the film. He said: "I don't know exactly what it is," and I bet he knew what it was, but he wasn't qualified to make this call. So he suggested that we see someone immediately. It was already almost 4 pm, but the doctor made all the connections for me to see the oncologist right away since I was already in Fort Collins, CO. I was scared.

We immediately went to the recommended place and it was almost after 5 pm, but the oncologist was waiting for me. He looked at the x-ray film and gave me the news: "You have a cancer." I lost it. I started to cry and even couldn't think straight because back in my home country the words "cancer" means "death." The doctor was clear that I still had a chance to survive. I remember sitting waiting for my blood to be drawn, and I felt like I was playing a role in a movie, and everything that happened within the next few hours was just a movie role for me to play. It felt so unreal.

Then everything happened so fast. I was scheduled to see the surgeon at the Colorado Limb Consults. She was surprised with my diagnosis of cancer that was based only on the x-ray. She actually gave me a hope for a few days because she said that only biopsy can prove if it is a benign or malignant tumor. The biopsy was done and then there were the long days of waiting the results. She called me and explained to me that I had Ewing's sarcoma. I understood the word sarcoma but had no idea what the first word mean. I googled everything at home. I was so eager to find some similar stories and, most importantly, to find out that people survived this cancer and lived happily after. Most of the stories were tough but inspirational. The word "amputation" presented in many stories but I even couldn't comprehend at that point that this tiny dark spot on my bone could lead to the amputation.

To read the rest of Olga's inspiring story, click here.


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