At 23, Megan Dychala was a former college soccer player who thought her nagging knee pain was a result of old injuries. She was young, active, and enjoying all that life had to offer her. But, in October, 2013 she got a phone call that would change her life.
Megan’s ongoing knee pain was in fact a tumor behind her knee. One day she was healthy and the next she was faced with a rare and aggressive cancer. Although statistics were against Megan, she knew she wouldn’t let anything happen without a fight.
Luckily Megan found Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Kristy Weber, MD. While other hospitals said that amputation was her only chance for survival, Dr. Weber knew she could do better – treating Megan’s cancer, but also ensuring a good quality of life after treatment.
Megan shares her personal journey at the Abramson Cancer Center below.
My Sarcoma Story
My medical team worked with me to develop an aggressive treatment plan that included five and a half weeks of daily radiation followed by an intense surgery. Dr. Stephen Hahn was my rockstar of a radiation oncologist and took care of me every step of the way. Radiation left me burned and uncomfortable, but it is truly amazing how the skin recovers from so much trauma.
Finishing radiation and ringing the bell, surrounded by my family and the other cancer warriors there, was one of the best days of my life.
The surgery we opted for allowed me to keep my leg, but I would be sacrificing abilities. With so much reconstruction and working with nerves, there is no guarantee the leg will regain proper function. I was told I could never walk without a cane or walker and that I could need to wear a leg brace, possibly for the rest of my life, to support my foot. I was also told I could have limited mobility restricting things like driving and basic daily tasks.
The “what could bes” were daunting, but I trusted Dr. Weber and my vascular and plastic surgeon guru Dr. Stephen Kovach. Together, Drs. Weber and Kovach removed the back of my knee and rebuilt my leg through vascular, skin, and muscle grafts in a 14-hour surgery. I had a long road ahead of me, and a mountain of unknowns to climb.
Drs. Weber and Kovach’s work was phenomenal. Less than six weeks after surgery, I was walking on my own two feet. I never had to use a cane or walker. I don’t wear a leg brace. I drive my car, work out at the gym, and walk my dog. My leg function is improving everyday, and I see a 100 percent return in my future. This experience has taught me a lot, but most importantly, no matter how much the deck is stacked against you, or how grim the statistics look, you should always remember that you can be the one to improve the statistics.
A positive attitude goes an incredibly long way. I was diagnosed with a “one in a million cancer,” but now I am one more survivor. I owe this second chance at life to my amazing team at Penn Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center.