You’d never guess that Luke Adkins is a cancer survivor by looking at him.
But the 24-year-old paramedic had his entire left knee and part of
his femur replaced with an endoprosthesis (an artificial bone and
joint) in 2011 due to osteosarcoma, and MD
Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology department has kept him
active and on his feet.
“I feel very fortunate,” Luke says. “I live in Lubbock, and removal
of my leg was pretty much the only option if I had been treated there.”
Second opinion yields internal prosthesis
“I was in Houston for about a month after the surgery, and when I
left, I walked out of hospital,” Luke says. “I fully credit MD Anderson and Dr. Lewis for that.”
Today, high-impact sports such as running, skiing and wakeboarding
are no longer an option for Luke. But having an artificial knee and
internal prosthesis has not prevented him from achieving any of his
career goals. Luke works in the physically demanding field of
emergency medicine. He also serves as a member of his county’s
volunteer fire department, which required him to pass a physical
“I have no regrets,” Luke says. “I get around just fine. Some things
are harder than others, but I don’t have any pain, and I don’t take
any medicines. This has limited me in nothing.”
Orthopedic Oncology’s goal is to have patients walking again
MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology program is unique, Lewis explains,
because we’re one of only a few places that uses a multi-disciplinary
approach. A team of professionals from almost a dozen different areas
— including plastic surgery, psychiatry, and prosthetics — play a part
in developing patients’ care plans.
“What set us apart from other institutions are our skill, our
approach and the integration of individualized patient-centered
physical therapy at the start of treatment,” she says.
“Our main plan is to have you here in 20 or 30 years,” Lewis says.
“But our job isn’t over when we leave the operating room. Our job is
over once we have you walking and back to your life. As a team, our
ultimate goal is to get you back to functional status as quickly as possible.”
MD Anderson helps college athlete stay on the volleyball court
Another patient helped by MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology team is
Jillian Williams. She is a 19-year-old college athlete who didn’t want
cancer to keep her from playing volleyball.
“I thought I had a torn meniscus,” she says. “But when I was
diagnosed with Ewing’s
sarcoma in my left knee, I only had two questions: ‘Am I going to
lose my hair?’ and ‘Am I going to lose my leg?’”
Ultimately, Jillian chose to have part of her femur removed in July
2016. She also had a procedure called a rotationplasty, in which the
lower portion of the leg is rotated and reattached backwards so that
the ankle can function as a type of knee joint.
Patients who have rotationplasties tend to stay more physically
active after surgery and handle their prostheses more easily.
“Dr. Lewis told me I had two options: amputation or rotationplasty,”
Jillian says. “I asked her which one would let me be the most active.
When she told me I could still play sports with a rotationplasty, that
was it. I want to play volleyball again. And I expect to be back on
the court again by next fall.”
Staying active after hemipelvectomies
Other success stories from MD Anderson’s Orthopedic Oncology
department include Jacob
Ballard and Matt Alcantara. Both had a surgical procedure called a
hemipelvectomy, in which one entire side of the pelvic bone is removed.
Jacob is a teenage Ewing’s sarcoma survivor who completed a
difficult hike over rough terrain just one year after surgery. And
Matt is a 22-year-old osteosarcoma survivor who works as a waiter by
day and plays guitar in an alternative reggae jazz band by night.
“I feel like I still live a pretty normal life,” Matt says. “I can
body surf, bike and hike and still enjoy those things. On stage, I can
still play music and jam with my friends. It’s awesome.”
appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.