Sadly, Kasey Gage passed away on Oct. 30, 2007 after a courageous battle with synovial sarcoma. Kasey’s openness, determination and courage inspired those of us in the RTC family. We’ll miss you physically, and know you’ll be with us spiritually on the road ahead. The following profile is one which Kasey completed in 2006.
Age at Diagnosis: 22 (2006).
Hometown: Montreal, QC
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I first noticed a bump around my groin during the summer of 2005. I thought it might have been part of my hip bone since I had recently lost a little weight. It didn’t really bother me so I waited until September to see my doctor. He said he hadn’t really seen anything like it and suggested we have it removed. I had an ultra-sound not too long after that and they thought it was a haematoma. They drained a lot of blood and fluid off the mass but never performed a biopsy.
The swelling went down almost immediately, but within two weeks the lump had hardened and was becoming painful. I had a CT scan not too long afterwards. It suggested that the mass may be malignant. I was then referred to an orthopedic oncologist at the Montreal General Hospital. He performed a biopsy and the results were inconclusive. During that same day I also had a CT scan on my chest. The following day, I had a PET scan and a MRI. And the day after that I had the biopsy that showed I had cancer. Unfortunately, this all happened the week before Christmas so I waited two weeks for the diagnosis because the labs were closed.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I have one year of post-secondary education.
What was your diagnosis?
Synovial sarcoma I have decided that I would like to know the stage and grade of my cancer so I am awaiting those results.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I thought it was strange that I had cancer since I had always been pretty careful. I eat well, keep active and don’t smoke. I am always usually the picture of health too, so it was ironic.
How did your family react?
My parents were devastated but they tried their best to remain positive about everything. My sisters were also extremely supportive but shocked too.
How did your friends react?
I did end up losing one friend. I mentioned that I had cancer in an e-mail and that was 7 months ago. She never contacted me afterwards. Other than that, everybody has been fine.
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: The first thing I had was ovarian relocation surgery in January 2006. This was to help preserve my left ovary by placing it on my right side since the radiation was going to be in that area. I then had 25 sessions of radiation on my leg during February and March.
In early April, I had a two part surgery on my leg. The first and major part consisted of removing the tumour. It was a good thing I had radiation first because it had shrunken in size. The second part of the operation involved taking a skin flap from my stomach muscle (the abdominus rectus) and covering the part of my thigh that didn’t have much left to it.
A week after I was released from the hospital, I had to be re-admitted with two infections. This was very painful and frustrating. I had to get my dressings changed daily from April until late June. After my surgery, the doctors thought they had removed the entire tumour and were quite surprised because it was on the large side. It was also suggested that I undergo chemotherapy. That was a huge shock to me since it had been mentioned that my cancer doesn’t respond that well to it. I started going through fertility treatments since the chemo I would be given tends to destroy ovarian function and or causes menopause. While going to the fertility centre, I also learned that my left ovary wasn’t functioning and that they couldn’t really locate it. I wasn’t able to produce a normal amount of follicles and time was running out so I was unable to do the invitro fertilization. It was a little upsetting, but my health is more important than having children biologically.
While I was trying to give myself my injection one night, I noticed that the skin on my leg did not feel right. I returned to the hospital and they gave me an MRI, CT chest scan, and a biopsy. Once they performed another biopsy, I knew that there was probably still part of the tumour in my leg. I learned the following week that not only was there still part of the tumour in my leg but that it had metastasized to my right lung as well. I have now done two cycles of chemotherapy. The way it works with me is that I am treated as an outpatient and receive Cyclosfosfamide, Doxorubicin, and Vincristine for one day. Then there is a two week break and I am treated as an in patient for 6 days. During that time, I receive Ifosfamide and Eposomide (VP 16). Then the whole cycle repeats itself. I know that I also need brachytherapy and surgery on my thigh followed my radiation and surgery on my lung.
Non-Medical Side: I feel well mentally most of the time. I try to be realistic about everything happening to me. When I was first diagnosed, I had a hard time accepting why God would do this to me. I don’t feel like this anymore. Cancer has made me be such a strong person. I also used to have issues with the way my body looked after surgery, but the scars and swelling are improving so much.
In which hospital(s) were you treated?
I have been treated at the Montreal General and at the Royal Victoria.
What is your current medical status?
I am in chemotherapy and have other treatments to go through.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
I have to limit my physical activities a little more now. I think my faith in God is stronger, too.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
The toughest part would be dealing with the pain and the waiting.
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
I think I have become more in touch with myself and my needs.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
I just think that tomorrow will be a better day if I am not having a very good one. Or that I could have it worse.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I used to mainly associate cancer with sickly looking people or people who led an unhealthy lifestyle. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
If you have any strange lumps or bumps, do not hesitate! Get them checked out.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I have started to attend a young adults support group at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
I saw a poster in the waiting room at the hospital about the retreat. I am relatively new to Young Adult Cancer Canada but it seems like just what I need.