I’ve always been good at math and science, so I’d given some thought
to becoming a doctor, even as a teenager. Then cancer came along, and
I got to see a lot of the inner workings of the medical field.
I was hooked. Medicine seemed like a great avenue for my talents and
passions. And I wanted to give back and be part of the community that
saved my life.
My Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosis
I was 17 years old when I found out I had cancer. One day in May
2009, I woke up with shooting pains in my right arm. Since I was the
pitcher on my high school baseball team, I got it checked out by a
sports orthopedist. He assumed it was tendonitis and gave me some
The pain didn’t subside, so I got an X-ray. The doctor saw a shadow
on my bone and ordered an MRI. We had an orthopedic surgeon look at
those images, too. He ordered a biopsy. The results showed I had Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone and soft tissue cancer.
‘Unparalleled’ experience at MD Anderson
My treatment consisted of 14 rounds of chemotherapy, with surgery smack dab in the middle. I had my chemo
infusions at a local children’s hospital, but when it came time to
have surgery, I wanted a second opinion.
I liked my surgeon, but I wasn’t really confident in his level of
experience. So, I got some referrals and asked a lot of questions.
Ultimately, I chose Valerae Lewis, M.D., at MD
Anderson, because her experience is unparalleled. She’d done
the operation I needed several times before and was very confident.
And her confidence made us confident.
Maintaining functionality after surgery
My surgery took place at MD Anderson in
August 2009. Dr. Lewis took all of my right radius out, except for a
little stub down by my hand. Then, she recreated my wrist. Afterwards,
I had seven more rounds of chemo, and I’ve been cancer-free ever since.
The radius is the bone on the thumb side of your forearm that allows
you to rotate your wrist. So I can’t rotate my right wrist anymore,
but I can still write and do everything else I need to do — including
my 2013 ride in the Texas 4000, a 70-day, 4,000-mile charity bike
ride that raises money to fight cancer.
I’m naturally right-handed, so maintaining functionality in that arm
was important to me. Especially now that I’m in my third year of
A career in pediatric oncology?
The third year of medical school is when you start applying to
residency programs, so I’ll need to choose my specialty soon. Right
now I’m still deciding, but something about hematology and pediatric
oncology keeps grabbing me and pulling me back.
Dr. Lewis teases me every year when I see her for my checkup. She
asks if I’m going to be a surgeon because, as she says, “Surgeons are
the best!” And every year, I break her heart a little bit because
being a surgeon is just not my style.
But this is how everything goes between me and Dr. Lewis: When I was
looking at colleges, she encouraged me to leave Texas and see more of
the world. Instead, I went to The University of Texas at Austin. She
gave me the same advice when I was looking at medical schools. But I
ended up staying here in Houston, and now I’m at MD Anderson, doing my clinical rotation in
pediatric hematology and oncology.
Above all else, Dr. Lewis told me not to go into pediatrics. But
based on how things have gone up until now, I think we all know how
that’s going to turn out.
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