Chondrosarcoma survivor helps other patients find their strength

In early 2009, Hilary McQuiston-Fall was enjoying an active lifestyle full of outdoor activities in San Francisco, California. But when the 26-year-old fell while snowboarding, she realized something wasn’t right. Doctors initially treated her for a broken tailbone, but months later, she was still dealing with pain and swelling. After a battery of tests, Hilary was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma in her right hip. Over the next six years, she received radiation therapy and went through several limb-salvage surgeries, but the cancer kept returning and spreading. “They believe it started in my iliac crest and took over my right side. It was growing over my leg, it was involved in my sciatic notch, femoral nerves — just everywhere,” explains Hilary. In 2015, her local doctor recommended she undergo a hemipelvectomy, a procedure that removes part of a patient’s pelvis and can include amputation of the leg. Through her research, she discovered MD Anderson’s Orthopaedic Oncology department has experts that specialize in this complex surgery. Confidence in MD Anderson’s expertise Hilary made contact with Dr. Justin Bird and spoke over the phone for weeks with his physician assistant, Jillian Chamberlain. Hilary vividly remembers when Dr. Bird called her with his final recommendation: an external hemipelvectomy, which would include amputation of her right leg. After a few weeks of careful thought and more research, she was ready to commit to the surgery and trust Dr. Bird’s experience and expertise. “Dr. Bird was very nice and patient with my decision-making. But I said, ‘No, I want to do it. Schedule me as soon as you can,’.” In March 2016, she underwent the 15-hour...