I had surgery after my eighth chemotherapy session. Doctors John Healy and Joseph Disa of Memorial Sloan Kettering performed the 14-hour surgery to remove my cancerous tumor and reconstruct my arm utilizing a bone and veins from my leg.
Thirty years ago, amputation would have been the only option.
During the surgery, Dr. Healey took a portion of my fibula, the smaller bone next to the tibia or shin, removed a large section of my humerus (the bone in the upper arm) and the tumor and soft tissue surrounding it leaving the widest margin possible as to not disturb the “actual tumor”. He was able to cut around it finding the narrowest of clear margins and potentially saving my life in the process. My fibula was then placed inside my hollowed out humerus, was secured in place with hardware and screws, and then the bone was revascularized so it would stay alive, have a chance to heal, and grow stronger with time.
Dr. Healey is an artist.
He speaks slowly and carefully as if selecting each word he says with full intention to deliver a clear message. He is a compassionate human being that treats each of his patients as if they were his only ones. He never rushes through his appointments and is always followed by a crew of doctors that watch in silence and learn. This is why you sometimes have to wait hours for your appointment; This is also why I don’t mind waiting.
The initial hours after waking up from that surgery were the most painful hours of my life both physically and emotionally.