A Short Bio
Hi! My name is Vicky and I am not entirely sure how to introduce myself properly, but I’ll give it my best try 🙂 I am an excitable 18 year old from Ridgewood, NJ, who has just graduated from Ridgewood High School and was looking forward to starting my fall semester as a freshman at Villanova University’s School of Business, that was until I was diagnosed. During my time in high school I was involved in a variety of ways. If you are more interested in the background to my diagnosis rather than what I have done in high school, what I am doing this year to keep busy through treatment, and what I am looking forward to once I beat this cancer and get to college, then feel free to skip the next paragraph all together.
Who I Was and Who I’m Going to be
I was a captain of Ridgewood Crew, having participated in every season all four years, winning an international title at Stotesbury Cup in the Girls JV 4x in 2019 and the indoor NJ state lightweight women’s title according to Haddon Hammer NJ State Championships in 2020. My experience and success in rowing aided in my recruitment to Villanova Women’s Rowing team, an incredible group of women I cannot wait to join next year. I am also an advocate for inclusion in the world of fitness, leading the Women’s Lifting Club and assisting in the RHS Fitness Club. Besides athletics I also love volunteering where I can! I helped to lead RHS Homework Helpers, a local tutoring club to connect RHS students with BFMS students. I was a member of my church St. Elizabeth’s Teen Outreach Group where we would attend monthly meetings to plan service work through the church. I was even able to lead my own food drive through the support of the group… but in the process learned how much my public speaking skills needed work!! EEK! I was part of my friend Matthew DeMeulder (the man who’s ALWAYS stressing about some important meeting he’s planned) and Kaela Owitz’s (the kindest soul you’ll ever meet <3) Community Outreach Club where we would similarly attending weekly meetings and monthly community service projects. I was personally able to run a poster drive for Valley Hospital in the peak of the pandemic. I also volunteered with Ridgewood’s Emergency Services in their TIES (Teens In Emergency Services) program by assisting EMS at local events and attending monthly training sessions. Moving forward I also want to get involved in as many things as I can at Villanova! As well as the rowing team I already wrote about, I am excited to join the Villanova Women in Business Conference once I attend. I can’t really give you a full explanation on the ins and outs on what the conference is yet since I haven’t joined, but I will be able to soon enough! While I am not able to attend Villanova this year, I am taking online classes at Bergen Community College.
The (Very) Long Road to a Diagnosis
Now back to the scary part of why you’re here… my Stage 4 Spindle Cell Sarcoma? Osteosarcoma? Some other rare bone cancer with a strange name? Honestly the doctors aren’t entirely sure what they are dealing with, but they’re approaching it with an aggressive chemotherapy regimen that seems to be working so far.
This all started back in March of 2021 when I was allowed back at my local gym to begin weighlifting for my senior spring crew season. I was pushing myself as hard as I could every day, reaching new PRs on every lift. One lift didn’t feel right though… I was going for a maximum lift of 423lbs on the leg press machine. My hip started hurting as I was pushing up the weight. I completed the lift, but went downstairs to stretch out afterwards. For two more weeks I worked out with the pain in my hip that got worse every day. The pain was particularly bad at night, being a sharp and shooting pain from my lower back through my left leg that would keep me up for hours every night almost screaming in pain. I thought I had one of the worst hip injuries you could get. It progressed until I couldn’t even reach my knees when I tried bending over.
My mom brought me to my pediatrician, who sent me to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon couldn’t see anything wrong with the X rays he had taken, so I was sent to physical therapy for a hip and lower back sprain. Thankfully physical therapy fixed everything and I was able to row again like normal! I wish. I felt slightly better after a month of physical therapy where I was treated for a new diagnosis of a hip sprain and misaligned sacrum, but my hip was still extremely limited in its mobility and I was fed up with the lack of progress so onto my senior crew spring season I went. Each week the pain became more intense and there wasn’t a time I wasn’t on some kind of over-the-counter pain medication.
Even though I knew this was a much more serious issue then I was making it out to be, I didn’t want to let me teammates down. By the time it came to the final Stotesbury Cup, the largest scholastic regatta in high school rowing, I was barely able to walk even with pain meds. I raced every last ounce of me in the varsity girls 4x, shed a few tears, and had an underclassmen carry my share of the boat back to our trailer while I limped behind. I knew after that I wouldn’t be working out for a very long time.
I went back to physical therapy for another month and a half, but it was barely tolerable to get through the exercises. My therapist told me I needed to get an MRI asap because she didn’t know what problem I had going on, but it was one entirely out of her ability to fix. She told me she believed I had a labral tear, a tear in the cartilage of the hip socket. I then went back to the orthopedic surgeon who referred me to a surgeon who worked in orthopedic oncology. At the time I didn’t know what oncology meant, so I assumed he was a sports medicine doctor. He immediately ordereded an MRI of just my hip socket. When the results came back he told me I had nothing wrong with the cartilage in my hip, but there seemed to be a small lesion (hole in the bone) above my hip socket. He told me this most likely was a benign tumor, one that could easily be treated with surgery before I headed off to college.
To make sure of this, he sent me for an entire hip MRI. The results came back from this scan and they weren’t expected. The expected minute lesion in my left hip and pelvis had increased to 71 mm x 43 mm and was now attacking my lower spine. The surrounding soft tissue was facing necrosis, as in it was all being killed off, which left me with joint effusion, a fluid filled hip in combination with the cancerous tumor. After coming back to the orthopedic oncologist he suggested this might be lymphoma, a highly treatable cancer that would surely leave me with a normal hip after it was all over.
Before he could admit me to hospital to get a biopsy and make sure of this diagnosis, the pain became unbearble. After showing up to Kaela’s house late on a Friday night and having her mother come out to convince me to go to the emergency room, I accepted my fate. I was going to start treatment soon.
I arrived and was immediately perscribed with narcotic pain medications. A few days later I was admitted to get a needle biopsy of the tumor while being administered whatever pain medicine they could give to make it bearable. (I like to joke my college friends won’t be prepared for me… already having taken oxy, percocet, morphine, even mixes of them and multiple at one. NOT THAT I WOULD EVER DO SUCH A THING IN COLLEGE) While I was there, they also scheduled a chest CT scan, just to make sure whatever I had didn’t metastisize. The needle biopsy results were supposed to take a week, but a week later we learned they weren’t sure what the tumor even was. We found out they had to send it off to the leading sarcoma specialist Dr. Christopher Fletcher from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
So after two weeks, I was brought to the clinic to learn I had an extremely rare form of bone cancer they would call Spindle Cell Sarcoma and treat like Osteosarcoma, and that it had in fact spread to my lungs, meaning Stage 4 cancer. So even if my outlook didn’t look great then, I’m fighting like hell to get through this. I hope you’ll enjoy following my journey with me through blog posts 😉
There’s finally light at the end of the tunnel for this hospital visit! Later this week (after 4 weeks of being in hospital…) I am going to be transferred to a rehab facility 20 minutes from my parents house for 10 days. After that I will be transferred back to MSK to start chemo againContinue reading “Quick Update on Future Plans”
I realize I didn’t post that I was going into surgery on this blog, so in case you don’t follow me on Instagram or heard from word of mouth, I had surgery on November 2. The surgery went all according to plan, but instead of taking 12 hours, it ended up taking 20 hours. HeContinue reading “Post Surgery Success”
Even though I was supposed to have methotrexate as outpatient, after a day as outpatient my levels are still highly toxic. This means I have to stay in at MSK until I clear the chemo from my blood completely. Not the best news, but also not unexpected. The difference between Hackensack and MSK is thatContinue reading “Methotrexate turned Toxic”
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