My New Normal A New Badass Robot Leg

by | Nov 25, 2019 | Cover Story

For about 9 years I had increasing pain in the arch/heel of my right foot and had seen a lot of different types of doctors to figure out the cause of this. Through all that time I had been misdiagnosed with conditions such as tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, and neuropathy. I had x-rays and nerve conduction study tests done along with quite a bit of blood tests as well. No one could come up with the cause of this horrible pain which was so frustrating. The pain got pretty excruciating to where I could barely walk. I couldn’t ever fully bear weight on it. It was also extremely sensitive to touch so accidentally bumping it would literally knock the air out of me. Finally, my mom told me that I needed to demand an MRI. The reason none of the doctors did one all that time was because my pain was believed to be nerve related which an MRI would not be able to pick up. I received the MRI right before I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. The results showed a soft tissue mass about the size of a golf ball that was compressing my tibial nerve which explains all of the nerve symptoms and pain I was having. I was so incredibly relieved we had finally found the cause after so long! I remember saying to the doctor “see! I’m not crazy!” From there I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who had told me not to worry and that he was 99.9% sure it was a benign ganglion cyst. The night before that meeting I had found out I was pregnant with my daughter. So, because I was experiencing so much pain, we planned to have it removed once I had my baby girl. I had that surgery on January 16, 2019. All went well and I healed beautifully and quickly. When I went in for my second and last follow up to get my walking boot off, I asked to review the pathology report to confirm that it was in fact a ganglion cyst. When he came back into the room with the report, I got news that I never in a million years would have expected to hear. The mass was not a ganglion cyst it was actually something called Synovial Sarcoma. I had no idea what this was until he explained this is a very rare type of cancer. Once I heard that word it felt like my whole world completely stopped. Almost felt like I blacked out because I was no longer comprehending anything else that he was saying. I just remember dialing my husband Greg Cline’s phone number and handing the phone to my surgeon. It was a complete shock. I went through a whirlwind of emotions. From there I was referred to my doctor who is an orthopedic oncologist at UCLA who is a Sarcoma specialist and has had numerous patients with my exact type of sarcoma. He then did an MRI, regular CT scan and a PET CT scan to confirm that the cancer had not spread anywhere else in my body specifically in my lungs! It was only localized. That was great and much needed news! On April 2nd 2019, I had a second surgery on my foot to go back in and remove any tissue that was surrounding the tumor in hopes to achieve what they call “clear margins” meaning they got all of the cancer out. Unfortunately, there were several more spots they found positive with the cancer within the tissue that he removed and he was worried there could be more within my foot. He gave me 2 options…
Option 1:
Limb salvage surgery – this would require several more surgeries including skin grafts and taking muscle from other parts of my body. With this I would always walk with a limp would always have pain and would be left with a botched looking foot.
Option 2:
Below knee amputation – I would have one major surgery, I would no longer be in pain once healed, it would give me the best chance for the cancer to not come back and would ultimately give me the best chance of a normal active and happy life! This was my doctor’s highly recommended option and I said “if it’s bad then get that thing off! I’m going to do whatever it takes to be around for my babies and husband!”
During my PET CT scan they also found an enlarged lymph node which needed to be removed during my amputation surgery just to be sure the cancer wasn’t metastatic. May 23 was the day I said farewell to my foot! However, literally about 10 minutes before they took me back into the O.R. an ultrasound was done on the lymph node to find and mark the placement of it. My doctor then came back in to tell me that they were now a little worried about it and we’re going to have a pathologist in the room to test it right then and there. He went on to tell me that if the lymph node was positive for cancer then he would no longer be doing the amputation and that instead I would have to do “grueling chemo therapy” and was very apologetic at the fact that I would be waking up from surgery not knowing what I would be waking up to. I was terrified but the first thing I heard when waking up was my husband, mom and doctor saying “your cancer free!” Best news I had heard in a while! So here I am after a lot of recovering and a rollercoaster of emotions as a brand new amputee! I owe the world to my husband Greg Cline for stepping up and playing all the roles of not only an amazing Dad, but as Nurse, housekeeper, chauffeur, therapist! My mom, Denise Bennett, also played a huge part in helping me through this and keeping me motivated and positive and I literally could not thank both my hubby and mama enough! I am so lucky to have such an amazing family and so much love and support standing behind me to help me fight this and I am so appreciative! I plan on living my life exactly the way I have been! I’m going to make sure I still continue with all the things I love to do…wake boarding, dirt bike riding, doing hair, and chasing after my toddlers. I look forward to being able to return to normalcy with my new normal but mostly I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire and help at least one person get through a similar situation and spread all the love and positivity that I have received! If you were able to read this all the way to the end I commend you and I apologize for the length, but I have been anxiously awaiting to share my full story once it became a successful one! Thanks for reading and I look forward to new memories with my new awesome robot leg!

Synovial Sarcoma

Synovial sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that tends to arise near large joints, particularly the knee, in young adults. Despite its name, it typically doesn’t affect the interior of joints, where synovial tissue and fluid are located.
The first sign of trouble is usually a deep-seated lump that may be tender or painful. Synovial sarcoma generally grows slowly. While these tumors can occur in young children, they generally develop in people between the ages of 15 and 40.
While synovial sarcoma can occur almost anywhere in the body, the most common locations are in the legs, arms and throat.

photo by Amber Lux Davidson

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