NY1 Health & Fitness reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report on how two bone cancer patients were able to keep their limbs thanks to doctors at one of New York's major medical centers.
Active in drama club, chorus, and the high school tennis team, Ryan Wenke, 15, was diagnosed with bone cancer in May.
"I had just been noticing this random pain in my knee, and I hadn't been playing tennis or anything. So it wasn't from an injury," recalled Wenke. "So we went to my doctor, who then told us to go to an orthopedist and we had an MRI. And that's when we found out I had a tumor."
Incredibly active herself, and a new mom of twin baby girls, Chrystina Fischer, 25, also got the same diagnosis after feeling soreness around her shoulder.
"I've been training horses since I was 16. The girls were born almost two years ago, and it was just, 'Well, I can hug one now,'" said Fischer, fighting back tears. "And, I just thought my whole life was going to change."
Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is extremely rare, making up less than one percent of all cancers.
Wenke and Fischer were both initially told they would most likely need amputations to remove their tumors.
But surgeons at Mt. Sinai Medical Center were able to save both limbs, conducting internal prosthetic reconstruction to replace bone removed to take out cancerous tumors.
Surgeons can place prosthetics inside the body if the tumor is not wrapped around arteries or veins.
"The goal of both surgeries is to restore them so they can lead a normal life and be able to utilize their extremities," explained Dr. James Wittig.
Witting says these days, 95 percent of patients with bone sarcomas can have their limbs saved. But some may still be undergoing amputations because they are not aware of the technology.
"Many physicians, and even the general public, are not aware of this disease entity and the options that exist," said Wittig. "So unless they happen to encounter a physician who has access to an orthopedic oncologist or knows the specialty or knows someone in particular who practices this specialty and saves limbs, everybody is still under the impression from the old days that the extremity needs to be amputated."
Just over a week out of surgery when NY1 interviewed her, Fischer, who traveled more than 700 miles from Michigan to have Dr. Wittig save her arm, says she cannot wait until she is rehabilitated enough to hug both of her girls again.
Already on her feet, Wittig says by the time Wenke's fully rehabilitated, you will not be able to tell the difference between her right and left leg where she had surgery.
"I'm just so grateful and lucky and blessed and very happy," said Wenke.
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