In March 2019, when Sofia was nine years old, sore knees prompted a routine X-ray of her legs. This X-ray would turn Sofia’s life upside down.
It revealed there was a mass located just above her right knee. Her doctor at Queensland Children’s Hospital ordered more tests, including an MRI, CT scan, PET-CT scan, and a biopsy. These tests sadly revealed the mass was a malignant tumour. She was promptly diagnosed with high-grade osteosarcoma –a type of bone cancer.
One week after the diagnosis, Sofia started chemotherapy. Following four rounds of chemotherapy, Sofia went into the operating theatre in July 2019 to have the tumour on her leg removed using 3D surgical navigation equipment, which was funded by Children’s Hospital Foundation donors. The procedure, called a ‘rotationplasty’, was rare and complex.
A rotationplasty is a partial amputation of the leg, ankle, and foot, and subsequent re-attachment of the healthy lower part of the leg, ankle, and foot to the remaining part of the femur, with the foot, rotated 180 degrees. This way, Sofia’s ankle, and foot can still function as her knee joint, allowing her to have full control of the movement of a prosthetic eg. The surgery lasted for nine hours. Without the 3D surgical navigation equipment, Sofia would have had to undergo a full amputation, which would have left her with less ability and a lower quality of life.
After a long post-op recovery, which included learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, Sofia returned to normal life and remained in remission for the entirety of 2020. However, in March 2021, she complained of pain in her back. MRI and a PETscan discovered more tumours – Sofia had relapsed aggressively in five different spots.
She, once again, began chemotherapy and radiation again for more than six months, when doctors advised it was potentially dangerous to continue any further chemotherapy due to Sofia’s size and age. She continued with a maintenance phase of chemotherapy, which is given via daily oral tablet.
To the marvel of both her treating team and her parents, in December 2021, Sofia underwent another PET scan which showed no evidence of activity of disease, meaning Sofia is now stable again.
Her parents cite Sofia as a strong and positive girl who has maintained a steady outlook on life despite her struggles.
“Sofia is the strongest person we know – she is always smiling and looking forward to the future. She has taught us to appreciate the little things in every day, and to not ever take anything for granted,”
Sofia is now 11 years old and looking forward to starting Grade 6. She’s already gotten back into her gymnastics and swimming and can’t wait to get even more active once her chemotherapy is all done.