17-year-old sarcoma survivor returns to high school smart past her years_ “I do know God wouldn’t put us by way of something we will’t deal with”

The journey O’Laya’s bone most cancers has taken her on solely boosts her spirits

September 26, 2023

O’Laya Rodgers most likely was probably the most excited teenager to enter Madison Excessive Faculty this fall. She needed to take off a 12 months and a half of college as she battled bone most cancers. Now, she’s wanting ahead to promenade and commencement. Whereas Rodgers was celebrating her sixteenth birthday, a mass in her left knee modified her life. Two months later, throughout her sophomore 12 months, she was identified with sarcoma of her bone and began chemotherapy inside days. Then radiation remedy was added. Later, she had a distal femoral alternative (together with a knee alternative), leaving her with a hinged prosthesis and no ligaments. “I assumed she had bruising on her knee, however they confirmed me the photographs of that mass that ate away her bone. That is when it began going downhill,” stated Karen Jones, O’Laya’s mother.

“As soon as I heard these phrases, my coronary heart stopped for a minute,” recalled Rodgers. “I didn’t know what I used to be going to do at that second – I simply needed to be alone.

“They had been telling me the kind of most cancers I had, what it had achieved, and what I used to be going to undergo so far as the chemo, radiation and surgical procedure,” Rodgers continued. “They didn’t have a purpose as a result of they don’t know why issues like most cancers occur to children.”

What’s sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a most cancers that develops within the physique’s connective tissue or bone. This prognosis is heard by lower than one p.c of all sufferers who’re informed they’ve most cancers. Most sufferers with delicate tissue sarcoma are identified of their 20s and 30s.

Sufferers identified with bone sarcomas are kids, some as younger as 10. The illness normally begins creating as they’re going by way of development spurts. The most typical signs of bone most cancers sometimes seem as ache within the space the place the tumor is situated, a lump or swelling, and generally damaged bones.

For O’Laya, the ache in her knew began when she was 15 and dealing at Burger King. She’s now 17.

O’Laya’s remedy plan begins

First got here chemotherapy on the Youngsters’s Hospital of Michigan.

“You begin to look sick, and that’s regular as a result of you might have a lethal useful drugs going by way of your physique. You get weaker, skinnier, lose your urge for food, and don’t eat in any respect. You then get scared to eat so that you don’t throw up. Many issues occur to you whereas on chemo, and you’ll’t do something about it.”

Her mother stated there have been good, unhealthy and horrible days.

“When my hair was popping out, I attempted to be sturdy on the skin, however I used to be breaking on the within. Once I lastly acquired my hair minimize off, I needed to cry. After some time, I beloved my bald head, and I used to be completely satisfied as a result of I didn’t have to sit down and get my hair achieved,” stated Rodgers.

However first, donuts!

Because of a collaborative partnership between Karmanos Most cancers Heart and the pediatric oncology crew at Youngsters’s Hospital, Rodgers acquired radiation remedy on her left knee at Karmanos by way of Dunkin Donuts, you would possibly say.

“Radiation was 25 minutes, however it felt like 5,” defined Rodgers. “I went Monday by way of Friday for 5 weeks. I used to all the time get a glazed donut.”

“O’Laya was cheerful and nice. She would usually inform me about what donut she had every day previous to her remedy or once I noticed her on a weekly remedy go to,” stated Steven Miller, M.D., radiation oncologist and member of the Sarcoma and Pediatric Oncology Multidisciplinary Groups (MDT) at Karmanos. “She was additionally all the time desperate to replace me about her siblings.”

“There was a giant machine within the radiation room, and it had a circle a part of it and the desk below it the place the sufferers lay. It has two computer systems which have an image of your face and your first and final title. Then on a wall to the entrance, it’s a whiteboard with all of the radiation employees names on it. They launched themselves each day,” described Rodgers.

“They made certain I used to be snug and okay and informed me what was going to occur. They made me snigger. I favored it there and appreciated all people.”

Rodgers would normally put on saggy pants to guard her pores and skin whereas present process radiation. Music was accessible to take heed to, however she had a quieter strategy to accepting her remedy.

“I’m capable of preserve my feelings below management by making an attempt to chill out and simply take heed to my physique. I additionally take drugs; I speak, pay attention, or watch issues that make me completely satisfied or preserve me calm. I sleep it off generally or simply let it out, however I don’t do that always. Solely once I’m actually overwhelmed and harassed, and it turns into an excessive amount of,” Rodgers shared.

She additionally prayed and requested for power, believing God “doesn’t offer you what you may’t deal with.”

Eager about issues that make her completely satisfied helped quite a bit. She talked to individuals who introduced her pleasure.

“She beloved interacting with the employees, particularly the nurses and the radiation therapists,” Dr. Miller added. “O’Laya was very optimistic about her illness whereas going by way of radiation therapies. The nurses actually favored her. She was all the time cheerful and upbeat.”

Rodgers says she entertained herself with hernaturally foolish character to maintain her spirits excessive. She was a present store common. Whereas within the hospital someday, some folks she encountered began singing Pitbull’s “We Are One (Ole Ola)” music from the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was moments like this that made her snigger.

Tumor and bone alternative surgical procedure

Alysia Kemp, M.D., Rodgers’ orthopedic oncology surgeon, chief of the Sarcoma Oncology MDT and member of the Pediatric Oncology MDT, stated she’s undergone extra bodily remedy than the common youngster. That’s due to challenges like conserving her leg straight in a brace, battling the stiffness radiation may cause, and sluggish wound therapeutic due to chemotherapy.

“O’Laya’s bone most cancers was handled with a novel routine that required chemotherapy, radiation and surgical procedure. After surgical procedure, she labored diligently with bodily remedy to regain her perform and vary of movement.”

Mature past her years, Dr. Kemp defined that even with problems and setbacks, Rodgers continued supporting her mother by serving to her siblings with a “stunning character and perspective.” She’s the third oldest of 9 children.

Even with brothers and sisters of her personal, Rodgers has unofficially adopted Dr. Kemp’s two child boys, who had been born whereas she was nonetheless in remedy. She calls them her brothers, which brings out laughter between Rodgers and Dr. Kemp.

“My siblings actually maintain a bit of my coronary heart. I’ve 4 sisters and 4 brothers,” stated Rodgers. “I like them a lot, and I’d reasonably undergo something than have them undergo what I’m going by way of. I do know God wouldn’t put us by way of something we will’t deal with.”

Her mother stated all eight of Rodgers’ siblings are glad to have her residence after a number of hospital stays for months on finish. They even wait on her hand and foot.

Trying past her most cancers

Rodgers has endured quite a bit in her battle to have the ability to do “regular issues” once more: chemotherapy, a distal femur alternative, ache, months within the hospital having to maintain her leg straight in a brace, and bodily remedy. She’s nonetheless on the street to restoration.

“I’ll be high-quality. It’s the infants who get identified, and seeing them sick and struggling that breaks my coronary heart,” expressed Rodgers.

She goals of being a pediatric nurse, however Rodgers says that generally it appears like a giant job.

“Generally I can’t assist however assume, what if the most cancers returns.”

Anticipating each subsequent appointment may be extremely emotional, however Mother says remedy, particularly in-patient remedy, has been an incredible assist.

Persevering with bodily remedy, she’s now again at school, in-person, for her senior 12 months of highschool. And although she is now in a wheelchair, she’s excited to be getting again to her research.

“I’m taking chemistry, English, economics, algebra. I’ve this tutorial class and it’s a category the place you are able to do any faculty work that you really want,” Rodgers defined. “One of many lecturers requested me if I needed to affix the Esports program after faculty. I’m wanting ahead to making an attempt that out.”

She additionally has an epic trip to look ahead to. This fall, the Make-A-Want Basis will ship Rodgers and her siblings to Orlando, Florida. They’ll spend time at Give Children the World Village.

What would Rodgers inform you in the event you discovered your self in her footwear?

“Preserve pushing even whenever you need to hand over. It’s gold on the finish of the rainbow. It’s instances whenever you’ll really feel such as you’re on the finish. Don’t let anyone inform you how you’re feeling. They aren’t you. In life, some issues are going to vary – you simply have to regulate.”

For those who or a beloved one is identified with sarcoma, it’s crucial to be handled by specialists at a middle for excellence. The Karmanos specialists on the Sarcoma Oncology Multidisciplinary Staff dedicate their careers to researching and treating this illness. Name 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or go to karmanos.org to make an appointment.

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