Friday, October 15, 2010

Sarcoma on 'Grey's Anatomy'

Last night's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" featured a young ballet dancer with osteosarcoma. His chemo didn't work, and it appeared as if his only option was amputation. He and his parents argued that dance was his life, and he couldn't live without it. He insisted the doctors watch him perform.

Moved by his lyrical performance, the doctors researched and found a technique in which they could remove bone, radiate it and put it back in. They told him that he could continue dancing, and if the surgery failed, they could still do amputation.

The media gives so little attention to sarcoma that I'm grateful when a show like this spotlights issues facing patients. But I wish we could get the word out that patients can get second opinions from comprehensive sarcoma centers, where doctors should know the latest treatments. You don't have to dance for them.

The Sarcoma Alliance gives travel grants up to $350 if you have to go out of town to get a second opinion. Because "Grey's Anatomy" is set in Seattle, this young man didn't need to go far. He could have gone to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where Dr. Ernest "Chappie" Conrad, an orthopedic surgeon, heads the sarcoma department.

Perhaps this episode of "Grey's Anatomy" will give hope to patients that new treatments are being developed. They also should know about clinical trials.

As someone who has had life-changing surgery, I know treatment decisions can be heartrending. Often, we feel like, if we just try hard enough, we can find a way to go on with our lives as if nothing happened. That happens for some people. But many of us have to learn to live with changes. We have to find new ways to enjoy life and to make our lives meaningful.

For some people, amputation is the best option to save their lives. Whatever option is best, it can be helpful to talk to someone who has been through what you have, or what you're considering. That's why the Alliance has a discussion board, live chat and patient stories, in addition to other resources. For example, we have a section for youth with sarcoma.

I hope to add to this post as I get more information. I especially want to talk to a friend who had her leg amputated below the knee, and now dances the tango.

-- Suzie Siegel, board member

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