The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Cancer Survivor’s Foot Is Still Taking Her Places

Posted by on Monday, February 27th, 2017

Foot amputations are relatively rare. Each year, podiatric surgeons perform 185,000 of these procedures as a last resort to save a patient’s life. Just over half of foot amputations are due to vascular diseases, such as diabetes or periphery arterial disease. The other half of limb losses are due to trauma. Less than 2% of cases are related to cancer. No matter the reason, it is one of the most emotional decisions any doctor or any patient has to go through. The patient’s mental state is of utmost importance to recovery, so we like to share stories of extraordinary people across America who have found a way to cope. An inspirational story comes to us out of El Reno, Oklahoma, where a woman has taken to Instagram to spread her cancer prevention message in a most unconventional way.

Watch out guys, this giraffe is a perv (obviously trying to lick my foot) #amputee #skeleton #foot #funnybone #cancer #onefootwander #giraffe

A post shared by cancer footūüĎ£‚úā (@onefootwander) on

How To Tell The Symptoms Of Foot Cancer

Foot cancer is so rare, that it can be difficult to diagnose.¬†ABC News¬†tells the story of a 25-year-old whose troubles began in 2011, with numbness in her right pinky toe. At first, her primary care physician didn’t seem overly concerned. Over the next three years, the numbness spread to encompass half of her foot, and the pain became quite severe. Her physician referred her to a neurologist, whom she visited six times. She was tested for peripheral neuropathy and B-12 deficiency.

Then, a lump appeared in the summer of 2015. Lumps can be benign, but we are usually concerned when the lump is accompanied by substantial pain. That December, her primary care doctor referred her to a podiatrist. First, she was tested or Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, which is a condition that affects the nerves and causes numbness. After taking x-rays and an MRI to examine the lump, it was believed to be non-cancerous fatty tissue. The foot doctors said there was a 1 in 100,000 chance the lipoma was cancerous.

Meanwhile, the neurologist was ordering blood work, but failed to address the pain issues the patient was having. She went back to the podiatrist. Steroid injections to reduce inflammation only made the pain worse, and medications came with adverse side effects. Finally, the patient agreed to go ahead with Tarsal Tunnel release surgery and a lipoma removal procedure. Prior to the big day, the podiatrist ordered tests on the lipoma and found out it was epitheliod sarcoma —¬†a particularly aggressive cancer that is resistant to radiation or chemotherapy. Since the cancer is so rare, research has been limited.

Though the cancer had not spread and appeared localized in the foot, the surgeon did not remove all of the cancer in that first surgery. The woman’s¬†oncologist recommended amputation as the patient’s best chance for long-term survival. She underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on April 22, 2016. She underwent revision surgery a month later when the skin failed to heal as expected. These setbacks can be depressing, but this patient dug deep to find a silver lining and the support she needed.

Woman’s ‘Cancer Foot’ Becomes Instant Instagram Success

After the surgery, this brave 25-year-old asked for her foot back. It caught doctors off-guard, but they were able to satisfy her bizarre request. The foot was given to her in a bio-hazard bag, and she sent it out to a company that removes flesh for medical research and scientific displays.

She keeps the skeletal foot in a shoe-box in her trunk (to stay safe from her German Shepherd) and it travels with her wherever she goes, posing in funny and artistic photographs, which later appear on the Instagram account OneFootWander. When she’s out in public, people think it’s made of plastic — but it is, in fact, the real deal.

“At first, I thought my life was over,” the cancer survivor said, “but after I got my foot back, I’ve been more positive. I was pessimistic, but this changed my attitude about life.” Having a strong sense of humor and good friends has been vital to her recovery, she said. “It makes me feel better to be able to look on the funny side of things and make other people laugh as well,” she told Inside Edition.¬†The 17.7K followers on Instagram have been “super nice and supportive,” she added.

A year later, the young woman is looking to get back to work. She also has a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay her medical and travel expenses, and to raise funds for the prosthetic foot her insurance will not cover. Presently, she is over a third of the way to her goal.

The message she hopes to get out there is this:¬†“If you have any lumps or abnormalities, I’d tell people to get it checked out. I might not have lost my foot had I moved a little faster.”

NYC Podiatrists Treating Numbness, Pain & Lumps In The Feet

As this story illustrates, so much depends upon an accurate diagnosis. The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC offers a full suite of diagnostic tools and tests to find out the root cause of your suffering. From there, you need experienced, board-certified foot surgeons who have experience removing diseased tissue from the foot. We have that, too! Best of all, you can find a friend in our compassionate care team. We won’t allow you to suffer physically or mentally if we can help it! Contact the office to connect with a trusted friend and health care provider.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.