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My daughter, Tracey, was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in 1987 at the age of 14. At that time, she underwent limb-salvage surgery..the surgeon took out her knee and about 4 inches of her femur and replaced it with a metal prosthesis. She also underwent chemotherapy (Adriamycin, Cisplatin, and DTC) at this time. It was really bad back then (the anti-nausea medications weren't helpful at all) and she had a very hard time with it. She finally completed all the courses and was so happy to get on with her life. She did great for about a year until the prosthesis broke. She had surgery (extremely painful...long recovery) to replace the prosthesis, but was told that after a "revision", the chances of the "hardware" loosening were much greater. She did great for about 8 months..and then was involved in a car accident...a guy ran a red light, totalled her car, and broke the "bad leg" just above the prosthesis. She ended up in the hospital for a month. This began 10 long years of horrible leg surgeries..averaging about 1 a year. We just still always felt so blessed that there was no sign of cancer and all of her doctors considered her "cured". I have to say though, that through all of the ten years, she had a pretty wonderful life. She seemed to live each day to its fullest (even though she was never without leg pain). She went to every party and prom, had lots of boyfriends, lots of friends, worked all through high school, almost finished college....but most of all, she had so much fun. About 2 1/2 years ago, our lives fell apart again. Her prosthesis broke again and the surgeon fixed it and put her in a body cast for several months. The surgery didn't work and he told her the leg would have to be amputated at the hip joint. She didn't accept this and we found another wonderful surgeon...he did a "total femur replacement". She now had no bone in her leg from the hip to the knee. The surgery was very successful and for the first time in years she was not in constant leg pain. Just after this surgery, she began coughing up blood, and to make a very long story short, they found a tumor in her lung. They removed the bottom lobe of her lung (very, very hard surgery on her). Tracey opted for no chemo at this time and the doctors all agreed it was a 50/50 toss up because of the large amounts she had had 10 years earlier. She had a very hard time with this surgery...but, the fighter she was, she was back home and training to be a phlebotomist 2 months after the surgery. She got a job in the lab at our local hospital and for a surgical oncologist. Her stepfather and I were so proud of her and began building her a darling little house about 5 minutes from us! She had worked for about 2 months, when one morning (I was home alone with her) she had a seizure. We rushed her to emergency and soon found out that she had 2 brain tumors. They removed these (2 surgeries a week apart) and she flew through the recovery. She also began chemo again (Ifex (Ifosfamide). They had come so far over the years with the anti-nausea medications (Zofran, Reglan, Benedryl combination) that she even gained 7 pounds during chemo! Before the start of chemo they had also discovered a tumor on the pancreas (I truly believe that this is the very worst place to have a tumor), but by the completion of chemo, there were no visable signs of cancer. We were estatic and Tracey's old boyfriend, Bob, moved back to Michigan to be with her (she was living in her own little house by this point). Everything was going well for about three months. Tracey and Bob were having a wonderful time together...talking about their future...going on a vacation to see Bob's dad who had just been diagnosed with lung cancer...and just really enjoying life. Then, Tracey ended up back in the hospital in excruciating pain...the worst I have ever seen anyone in. She said it felt as though her back was breaking in two. The doctors were at their wits end. They finally tried two different epidurals. Morphine was going into these, along with a morphine drip and pushes. I had to sign a "do not resusitate order" for them to keep upping her doses of pain meds...they said she was on such high dose that it could shut down her respiratory system. I had no choice...her pain was still horrendous. She was in the hospital for about 6 weeks trying to get the pain under control. She was rapidly deteriorating before our eyes. We could not believe it when they suggested Hospice, but we quickly realized that was the only way we would get her home. She came home with Hospice on a morphine pump. All of her other meds were given to us in syringes (creams) to rub onto her forearms and tummy. They were absorbed through her skin. Tracey was only home one week. That week she seemed totally "out of it". Her eyes were always half open and she rarely talked. She had quit eating and drank next to nothing that week. The last 2 days, her body systems were shutting down and her breathing became very shallow, rapid, and "gurgly". The sound of her breathing was terrifying, but the nurse assured us that we were suffering more than she was (I pray that she was right). Now, we had to make a huge decision....they told us it was probably time...we had to decide whether or not to give her shots of atropine to help dry up the fluid in her lungs....they told us this would also hasten the dying process. Again we felt we had no choice. I don't really know if the shots helped much...We were all with Tracey when she died .For the first time in days, she fully opened her eyes and scanned the room. She took two little gasps of air and then she was gone. It was the saddest moment of my life....I could not believe after this 12 year battle that her life ended like this! We are all still having a very hard time. We just miss her so very, very much. She was such a special and amazing person. Many of her doctors told her over the years that she needed to write a book. They said she could be such an inspiration to other young people battling cancer. They all saw this quality in her...she was so compassionate, caring, so positive...she had such a "sparkle" about her. She could go through something just terrible and come right out of it with a smile on her face...worrying about the rest of us. I know she left "footprints" in so many peoples hearts...I know that my heart will be broken forever, but I am so thankful that we had 26 wonderful years with her and that she is no longer suffering and is finally at peace.

Posted 03/07/2000 06:54 am by PEGGY
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