Sarcoma Story – John Roemer

Marti and John Roemer

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Type of Sarcoma: Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma
Date of Diagnosis: 2013
Location: Thigh

One month after learning from a Mayo Clinic GI oncologist that I was only six months away from (hopefully) being declared free of intestinal cancer, I noticed a lump on my thigh. In the same month, July 2013, I was diagnosed with an undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma tumor.

Since I was already in a cancer survival mindset, it was almost natural to start the initial regimen of radiation augmented by low-level chemotherapy. Three months after noticing the lump, it was surgically removed: 11 x 9 x 7 cm, grade 3+, more than 90% necrotic, with 1 cm of negative margin. Eight weeks later, three phases of doxorubicin/ifosfamide were started. It has now been over eight years since the last treatment and all is quiet.

While there will be annual checkups indefinitely, I am incredibly blessed to have such excellent care. My Mayo primary physician recognized that the lump on my thigh was “not just a cyst” and referred me immediately to oncology. The radiation oncologist deadened the fast-growing tumor. The surgeon did amazing work (I saw the intra-operative photos with the exposed sciatic nerve) and the plastic surgeon did creative stuff to fill the void left by the tumor. The medical oncologist was the leader of that group, including my wife and me, to formulate and execute a plan which has obviously been successful.

One of my supporters accurately pointed out that there are rarely major miracles – just many minor miracles. That has been true. I am blessed with a wife who understands medical stuff – crucial to determining a workable treatment plan, preparing for surgery, facilitating recuperation, accommodating vagaries in my diet, etc. And, it is hard to describe the comfort provided by friends and neighbors who were pulling for me.

We knew very little about sarcoma going into this experience, but were grateful for the excellent materials and guidance that Rein in Sarcoma provided via the Patient Guidebook.

During the encounter with sarcoma, I was again forced to own the reality that I AM going to die – but that I do not get to choose when that will be. That realization came on strong at the time of my previous cancer surgery (for intestinal cancer), but led to another spiritual awakening in 2013.

To those who have not had a sarcoma it may seem strange to hear that someone has been blessed because of the illness. But I have been blessed – not only because I am still alive – but because I have experienced the terrific Mayo medical care and the love, concern, and support of my wife, Marti, and so many other friends, neighbors, and even acquaintances.

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