Because of my othopaedic care, I was able to get back to a normal lifestyle. I can drive to visit my grandkids.
Excerpts from Bonnie’s story as shared by the Campbell Foundation:
After raising her three children, Bonnie Patrick happily busied herself with helping raise her three grandchildren, ages 13, 11, and 10. She takes them to school, soccer practice, and after-school activities. There’s boating on Pickwick Lake almost every weekend and playing on her eight acre farm in Eads, Tennessee. Typically, at least one of the grandkids spends the night. Mamie and Paw are cool grandpa rents: they have horses, a swimming pool, and live in a barn.
When the grandkids are otherwise occupied, Bonnie maintains the pool, helps cut the grass, assists with the horses, and keeps the books for the family-run business she co-owns with her husband, Larry: Good Earth Termite and Pest Control Co. The fun-loving 58-year-old Bonnie is a retired EEG/EVP technician who loves her active lifestyle and the welcome opportunity to co-raise a second set of children with her eldest daughter, a single mom.
So in August 2010, while Bonnie was moving her daughter into a new home and moving herself and Larry into their barn’s furnished apartment, she became increasingly irritated by numbness and tingling in her left foot that started working its way up her leg. It was literally cramping her style.
“I noticed that my left calf was bigger than my right, but I thought I was just building up muscle unevenly because I was also having trouble with my right knee and favoring it,” says Bonnie. “But the numbness and tingling got worse and worse throughout the move, and although I had no pain, it got to the point that it was really bothering me. I thought, ‘No, that enlarged calf is more than just muscle.’”
Bonnie asked her family doctor what he thought it might be, but he didn’t seem concerned. Bonnie, however, still was.
“By the time I went to see Dr. Keith Williams, my foot was numb,” Bonnie recalls. “He immediately took an X-ray, and when that didn’t show anything, he did an MRI. At 8 o’clock that Friday night, my phone rang. He told me I had a tumor in my calf and that it didn’t look good. He said, ‘I’m referring you to Dr. Patrick Toy. He’s a good doctor, and he’ll take care of you. I’ve scheduled an appointment for you on Monday at 3 o’clock.’”
Dr. Toy, an orthopaedic oncologist, took a biopsy of Bonnie’s calf tumor to determine if the tumor was malignant or benign. He called Bonnie as soon as he got the results. “I don’t have good news,” he told her. Bonnie was sitting in a shopping mall parking lot getting ready to finish up last-minute Christmas shopping when she received Dr. Toy’s call. She took the news like any typically devoted grandmother. “Are you talking surgery before Christmas?” she asked. “Because I’ve got presents to buy and Christmas to do before we can think about surgery.”
“Bonnie had a rare type of cancer — a soft tissue sarcoma — which is a cancerous tumor that grows in muscles, fat, joints, nerves, or blood vessels,” said Dr. Toy. “Her tumor was the size of a small grapefruit.”
He was particularly concerned with the location of the tumor. It had grown uncomfortably close to the peroneal nerve, which controls foot function. “If we had to sacrifice the nerve, Bonnie would have a condition called ‘drop foot,’ where she would not be able to pull her foot or toes up,” said Dr. Toy. “We had to make sure that we did everything possible to preserve her function.”
Bonnie’s treatment began with 25 radiation treatments over a period of six weeks to shrink the tumor. Surgery was then scheduled for March 8. Bonnie was still concerned about her grandkids. “My only reservation and worry,” she said, “was how long I was going to be out of commission, because I had my grandkids to think about.”
“During surgery, I was most concerned about that peroneal nerve,” said Dr. Toy. “If you cut a nerve, you can repair it, but it’s not going to work like it used to. We also had to dissect around her blood vessels, and you have to be just as careful not to injure those, either. Typically, tumors push things out of the way; they don’t normally grow around structures. But when a structure is nearby, you’ve got to be careful.” The surgery lasted an hour and a half.
Bonnie will visit Dr. Toy 15 times during the next five years to monitor the aftermath of her sarcoma surgery and to watch carefully for any evidence of local recurrence. “We also do a CT scan of her chest,” said Dr. Toy, “because if the cancer is going to spread, it is most likely to spread to the lungs.” On the last day of June 2011, Bonnie walked out of physical therapy treatment for the final time. “I don’t want to take the credit for being some sort of super woman,” she says. “I couldn’t have done it without all the support, prayers, and comfort I received from an enormous circle of friends, family, and church.”
Her morning ritual now includes stretching exercises for her calf, and she wears a special stocking every day to keep the swelling down — which interferes with her tan, but she’s
working around that. “I told Dr. Toy that I just wanted to be normal again,” she says. “And he made it so that I am normal again. I haven’t missed a beat, and there’s nothing I can’t do. I don’t really focus on my leg or think about it much anymore. I just go on because I’ve got things to do and a life to enjoy!”
Wedding bells are ringing in Bonnie’s future. Her son gets married in August and her youngest daughter will walk the aisle in December. “Throughout all of this, I told Dr. Toy and my therapists that I just want to be able to dance at their weddings,” says Bonnie. “It looks like I’m going to be dancing just fine.”