At our hospital in Philadelphia, we talk a lot about the “starfish story” (adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley), which symbolizes the power to make a difference in another person’s life.
At some point we all end up feeling like a starfish stranded on the beach; we need someone to lift us up and place us back in the ocean of life. This is especially true for the patients I meet.
I’ve been practicing orthopedic oncology for a long time. I’ve seen many patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer to the bone who have been told there are no treatment options available to them. Some have even been referred to hospice. It makes me frustrated to meet orthopedic patients who have a problem with cancer and have been turned away.
Many of these patients feel defeated after hearing this news. They become depressed and disengaged in their care. It’s difficult to convince the ones who can be helped that the initial advice they received may have been wrong.
The reality is, with all the advancements today, we’re starting to look at metastatic bone cancer as more of a chronic disease state which can be managed for many years. More and more patients can live normal lives, but they may need a second or third opinion to get there.
Some patients with stage IV metastatic disease to the bone can benefit from orthopedic surgery in a number of ways. Patients can get relief from pain, regain their independence, and improve their quality of life because of procedures like hip or joint replacement, rodding, implants and bone grafting.
So when it comes to orthopedic issues related to your cancer, don’t take no for an answer. Your quality of life deserves a second opinion. There are physicians out there who are willing to make a difference for you. After all, sometimes we are just like the starfish and, with a little help, something can be done.
Learn more about the importance of getting a second opinion.