5 things we learned from our daughter’s rotationplasty

In September 2014, when she was just eight years old, our daughter Elise was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. It was in her right leg. Part of her treatment involved a surgery called a “rotationplasty,” which my husband and I had never even heard of prior to coming to MD Anderson. Here are five lessons we’ve learned since then — about rotationplasties, sarcoma and life in general. Realize kids see things differently Initially, we assumed our only surgical options were limb salvage (in which diseased bone is replaced with a man-made implant, a donor bone, or a combination of the two) or amputation. We didn’t think limb salvage was the right choice for Elise, so we prepared her to have an above-the-knee amputation. But when we met with Dr. Valerae Lewis, she told us about a third option: rotationplasty. Essentially, it’s where you cut somebody’s leg in half, remove the cancerous part, and put what’s left on backwards, so the ankle functions like a new knee. Dr. Lewis showed us a video of other children who’d had the procedure, and they could still do all of the things they’d done before. One was snowboarding, and another was a Paralympic high jumper. Elise looked at the video and very casually said, “Yeah, that’s what I want.” Today, Elise’s attitude hasn’t changed. Our daughter knows she’s great just the way she is. And if you don’t like her leg or it scares you, that’s your problem. She sees herself as a kid who just happens to have had a rotationplasty, rather than a “rotationplasty kid.” It’s a subtle...