A Date with My Texas Surgeon

Photo taken March 2011: The drain removal a couple days after Giant Cell Tumor surgery. As you can see, I'm about to lose my hospital lunch. 

From my biopsy surgery on Feb. 24 until  June 17th (113 days!): I got around on crutches, and then, the last few weeks I used a cane. If you're going to a bar or checking out the sales rack at Anthropologie, crutches are the safer option. They're more noticeable, so you're less likely to get pushed around. And then, you don't have to embarrass everybody by saying, "I know you're trying to get to those 25% off chinos, but I'm handicapped. Just give me a second." 

Photo taken September 2011...Minimal muscle atrophy. So happy to have my freedom back.


The last time Dr. Marco saw me, I was knocked out on an operating table like a slab of meat. He spent four hours scooping out maverick Giant Cell Tumor cells that had eaten away at my femur.  He burred out any surrounding cells that could go rogue at a later date. He wiped the area down with a cell-killing chemical formula. And he spackled up the huge gaping hole where bone should have been with cement putty.

Yesterday, I wore a sundress and sandals to my appointment. I believe bad news is never given to a girl in a sundress. My outfit was a fake out to the vengeful Gods peering down on us. She’s not going to the orthopedic oncologist. Look. She’s dressed for aperitifs on a cruise deck. The disguise worked. Yesterday’s check up was a success.

Dr. Marco is one of those unflappable types. His first name is ‘Rex’. You've got to be self-possessed with a name like King Marco. But he was visibly shocked by how far I’d come in my rehabilitation.

DR. MARCO: When was your surgery again?

ME: March.


The doctor's animated response kind of startled me. It meant there was doubt that I'd be as far along as I am. It felt kind of like how, when I was younger, my Mom always supported me in all my endeavors, but then, when I actually got accepted into what I had gone out for, her loving congratulations always had a tinge of surprise. People should know: It’s my job to self-doubt and everybody else’s job to believe in me 100%. Capiche?

Dr. Marco said I had gained more strength and mobility in the past seven months than many patients like me ever recover. His young entourage in white coats nodded their heads in agreement.

I’m pleased that I’m surpassing Dr. Marco's expectations. And I'm grateful. But I’m also sad for other GCT patients who have a harder time. I know I'm lucky. I had a great doctor, a knowledgeable physical therapist, a mom who bought me five pound weights so I could do bicep curls in bed, and a husband who made me protein shakes every morning.

Of course, I still found time for “Ellie-aching” at this appointment. My knee still hurts. The doc said the pain could be caused by a protrusion from the cement rubbing against my tendons. He said he could burr it down in another surgery. No guarantee that would help. I’d be able to walk out the same day, but the wound would have to heal again. Oh brother! I never want to have to take another “trash bag wrapped around the leg with duct tape” shower ever again. We’ll reassess in six months. I’ll be stronger by then. And the pain might go away on its own.

In the meantime, more pilates-style workouts and physical therapy. And guilt-free valet parking.