Sarcoma Story: Jonathan Reich

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Type of Sarcoma: Ewings Sarcoma
Date of Diagnosis: 2008
Location: leg

Jonathan Reich and I were high school sweethearts. We were engaged and bought our home at 19, and married at 21 in 2006. Many people told us we were too young to be in love and married, but we are so thankful we started our lives together young, as we had no idea the hurdles we would face.

We wanted to start a family as soon as we were married; however, conceiving wasn’t easy for us. We were blessed with our miracle daughter, Emily, in May 2008, as a result of fertility medications. Jon had been having intermittent knee pain for a couple of years, but when the pain became too much, he always got a different diagnosis from the local clinic – arthritis, torn meniscus, sports injury, etc.  He had overwhelming pain in his knee a week before Emily was born. I took him to urgent care and after nearly passing out from the pain in the waiting room, an orthopedic doctor took x-rays, and an MRI the next day revealed a tumor on his right tibia. We were sent to the University of Minnesota for a surgical consult and biopsy. They thought the tumor was benign and therefore planned to remove the tumor and fill in the damaged tibia with bone cement. On the day of the surgery while waiting alone, the surgeon came out and told me the tumor was cancerous and that they closed Jon’s leg and left the tumor in place. After a whirlwind of tests and appointments, Jon was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in June 2008.

Jon completed 17 cycles of high dose chemotherapy at the U of MN. He underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries on his right leg, including total knee replacement, bone graft from his hip bone to his tibia, and had knee component parts replaced twice. He was declared cancer-free in May 2009. We pursued fertility treatments using his sperm banked before chemo and were blessed with another miracle daughter, Jacey, in February 2012.

Jon was cancer-free for seven years. In May 2016, Jon noticed a large lump on the top of his right foot. Assuming it was an infection or cyst, he went to a local clinic. The nurse practitioner ordered an MRI just to be safe due to Jon’s history. His MRI confirmed a soft tissue tumor, and we were referred back to the University of Minnesota for a biopsy. We received the news that his cancer had returned. A PET scan revealed three tumors in his right leg – one on the top of his foot, one on his shin, and one in his calf.

Jon started his high dose chemotherapy regimen in late June 2016. He completed five cycles of inpatient chemotherapy before surgery was scheduled in October 2016. Jon’s surgeon was able to amputate Jon’s leg below the knee, but had to remove more muscle than the typical below knee amputation, given the location of the tumors. Jon’s leg is much different than the standard amputation also, given he has a total knee replacement on that leg as well, complicating things further for him. He was able to walk on a prosthetic leg for the first time early 2017. He completed two more chemotherapy cycles following surgery.

Jon’s second diagnosis came as a shock and really rocked our family at its core. Our daughters were ages 8 and 4 at the time of his diagnosis and struggled immensely throughout the chemotherapy process and surgery. It’s a lot for our entire family to fathom and deal with. Jon continues to work hard with physical therapy and has regular appointments with his prosthetist. Walking has been a challenge and gives Jon a lot of pain and discomfort. He’s remained strong and determined throughout his journey and our family has become closer. He’s my best friend, my rock, and truly my hero.

– Written by Sara Reich, wife of Jonathan Reich

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