December 8, 2014

Three time cancer survivor counts on OrthoIndy

Bone and Soft Tissue Oncology | Patient Stories

Always looking for a new and fun way to get active, Michelle Hoffman decided to give rollerblading a shot. However, after several days of rollerblading, she started to notice giant bruises forming on her legs where the rollerblades had moved from side to side. Michelle figured rollerblading just wasn’t meant for her and decided she would have to give it up because of the pain it caused her.

Nonetheless, several months after giving up rollerblading, when the bruise coloring had went away Michelle’s legs remained very sore and tender to touch. Nervous about what it could be, but desperate for an answer and to be pain-free again, Michelle went to her family physician and had an X-ray taken. Unfortunately, the X-ray provided no insight and she was sent home to continue to deal with the pain in her leg.

About a year and a half later, Michelle noticed a large lump on her leg that throbbed with pain. Michelle knew something wasn’t right. After getting an MRI done, Michelle’s orthopedic physician in Fort Wayne, Indiana was shocked at what he saw and immediately made an appointment for Michelle to visit OrthoIndy.

“Three days later I met Dr. Bruce Rougraff, an OrthoIndy surgeon,” said Michelle. “Although the news was frightening, I was happy with how well he explained everything to me and my husband. A biopsy had shown us it was cancer and I was scheduled for surgery three days later.”

The plan was to remove the tumor and part of Michelle’s bone and insert a rod in its place. The surgery went according to plan and the tumor was sent away for testing. It took several months for the results to come back, but when they did Michelle found out the tumor came back positive for Ewing sarcoma.

Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue. Most frequently, Ewing sarcoma occurs in teenagers and young adults. Because of this, Dr. Rougraff referred Michelle to a local children’s hospital where she underwent chemo.

“My children, Connor and Rachel, were 10 and 7 years-old at the time,” said Michelle. “I completed my 16 chemotherapy treatments in 52 weeks. This was really hard for my children and my husband. Thank goodness we have a wonderful family and the support of friends and our church. So many wonderful people came together to make us meals, drive us to Indianapolis and help us with childcare.”

Thankful for all the help and the determination to go on living, Michelle beat cancer. For five years, Michelle was able to enjoy life with a little less worry and stress. However, right before her five year check-up, Michelle was terrified when she noticed pain in her leg and what felt like water running back and forth when she moved it around.

“When I found a small lump I called Dr. Rougraff’s office,” said Michelle. “After getting an MRI, it was confirmed that my cancer was back. Dr. Rougraff recommended surgery to remove the cancer, which was the size of a pea. Again the tumor was sent out and the biopsy confirmed the Ewing sarcoma was back.”

After another year of chemo and radiation, Michelle beat cancer for the second time in her life. Nevertheless, three years later, Michelle noticed a lump for the third time. Disheartened and fearful, she called Dr. Rougraff and went in for another MRI. Once again, a tumor was confirmed but this time Michelle’s options were limited.

“I always knew from the beginning that removing my leg might be necessary, but suddenly I felt so incredibly overwhelmed with the thought of losing my leg,” said Michelle. “This was my third time fighting this beast of a cancer and something in my heart told me drastic measures were necessary.”

Michelle met with numerous radiation physicians and specialists, but time and time again she was told she was not a candidate for that treatment. Terrified of losing her leg, but even more terrified of the cancer, Michelle decided to have her leg removed by Dr. Rougraff.

“Was I scared? Yes,” said Michelle. “But I felt safe and secure thanks to the great care I have continuously received from Dr. Rougraff and his staff at OrthoIndy Hospital. Just like during my previous surgery, everyone went out of their way to make my several day stay at OrthoIndy Hospital as pleasant as possible. Surgery went well and I had minimal pain.”

Michelle recovered very quickly, considering she was on chemo treatment at the same time, and two months later she was fitted for her first prosthetic leg. Three months after that, she finished her chemo treatments and also received her prosthetic leg perfectly fit for her.

“My life has been quite an adjustment, but I wouldn’t change anything,” said Michelle. “I am so blessed to still be here with my family. I am grateful everyday that I had the option to remove my leg and save my life. I have had my falls but I get right back up again. Through this 10 year journey my kids have seen me at my best and worst. I have had my good days and bad but am blessed for any day that is given to me.”

Michelle today

Today, Michelle’s children are 20 and 17 years-old and Michelle hopes they have learned to never give up.

“I hope my family knows how hard I have fought and that all I have gone through is because I love them and my life,” said Michelle. “My husband has been my rock and soft place to land. I am so amazed at his strength and understanding through my best and worst times. I am thankful I can spend the rest of my life with him. I would do it all over again to continue to be with my family.”

Michelle is able to get back to enjoying life again. She has gone on vacation and believes that one day she will be able to run again. Currently, she likes riding her exercise bike, playing ball with her dog, spending time with her family and friends and focusing on getting stronger.

“I cannot express how grateful I am to Dr. Rougraff,” said Michelle. “The decisions he made throughout the past 10 years have been instrumental in my recovery, helping me beat cancer three times. I am a three-time survivor! I am so blessed and thank God daily for bringing Dr. Rougraff into my life.”

Nothing stops Michelle from doing what she wants. Currently, she is cancer free and continues to see her oncologist and Dr. Rougraff every six to seven months.

“I feel absolutely fantastic and even when I don’t feel great I just shrug it off because I realize just how blessed I am to be here,” said Michelle. “Life is short and I choose not to dwell on things I can’t do, but focus on all I can do.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rougraff, please call 317.802.2824. or learn more about  treatment options.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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