Confidence After Cancer
- Emma Cousins, 35, from South Yorkshire, England, who had her eyeball removed after getting diagnosed with rare cancer, is living life in confidence after a new skin graft treatment was done to cover her eye socket.
- The mom of two was diagnosed a few years ago with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma—a rare type of sarcoma. The form of cancer is a high-grade variant of chondrosarcoma, a cancer of soft tissue and bone.
- “Conventional chondrosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that arises from cartilage cells. Cartilage is the specialized tissue that serves as a buffer or cushion at joints. Most of the skeleton of an embryo consists of cartilage, which is slowly converted into bone,” the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD) explains.
Emma Cousins, 35, was diagnosed in April 2018 with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma—a rare type of sarcoma. The form of cancer is so rare that the medical world didn’t have a name for it until recently. Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma is a high-grade variant of chondrosarcoma, a cancer of soft tissue and bone.Read More
Cousins explained further, “There’s a scar on my leg where the skin was taken but if it wasn’t for that you would never know really. It’s amazing how well it has all healed. The operation is wonderful and the best thing I’ve had done. I’m feeling good and living with the hole for so long has made me more confident showing my eye rather than it needing to be covered to protect my airway.”
She said that because the skin patch has its own blood supply, it still has hairs that grow, something she was warned would happen. However, Cousins remains confident after the surgical procedure and admits she plucks the hairs out when they grow and is trying to tan the newly added skin.
Her muscles in the area of her eye also continue to work, so she’s able to “blink.”
Cousins, who has a 15-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, lived for about 16 months with a hole in her eye socket, which grew bigger as time passed until she had the new skin graft treatment.
Now, cancer-free, Cousins is looking forward to the holidays and celebrating her son’s 16th birthday.
“I got him a card four years ago in case I was not here to give it him. I can buy him a new card and tell him in person how proud I am of him and how happy I am to be able to share his special day with him,” she said.
As the one-year anniversary of her skin graft surgery is nearing, Cousins has been sharing her story with TikTok, hoping that when people “see someone with one eye they won’t stare and make that person feel uncomfortable.”
“I want to help others with this facial difference because it will become more and more common,” she added.
Cousins has since continued to live life with a positive attitude, something she had before the skin graft surgery. Last year, she explained on social media how prior to surgery, the hole in her eye was able to have enough air come out to blow out candles. “During the Christmas of 2020 I started thinking of what else I could do and found I could blow things over and I could make it snow by blowing Rice Crispies and glitter and blowing out candles,” she said.
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What Kind of Cancer is Sarcoma?
Sarcomas are cancers that arise from the cells that hold the body together. They can occur in muscles, nerves, bones, fat, tendons, cartilage or other forms of connective tissues.
“There are hundreds of different kinds of sarcomas, which come from different kinds of cells,” Dr. George Demetri, director of the Sarcoma and Bone Oncology Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, previously told SurvivorNet.
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The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers. Those are then further broken down into more specific forms of the disease, including:
- Ewing’s sarcoma — Cancer that typically occurs in and around the bones, often in the arms or legs, or the bones of the pelvis. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults.
- Kaposi sarcoma — Rare type of cancer that causes lesions on the skin, in lymph nodes, organs and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. It typically affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
- Epithelioid sarcoma — Soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It’s likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg or foot.
- Synovial sarcoma — Known also as a malignant synovioma, this is a cancer that can form soft tissues such as muscle or ligaments, commonly close to joints or in areas like the arm, leg or foot.
- Osteogenic sarcoma — Known also as osteosarcoma, this cancer forms in the bone and is most common in young children.
- Spindle cell sarcoma — Rare form of the disease that accounts for less than 2% of all primary bone cancer cases. It’s most common in adults over age 40 and often forms in the bones of the arms, legs and pelvis.
- Angiosarcoma — This cancer appears in the lining of the blood vessels.
- Liposarcoma — This cancer develops from fat cells and often occurs in the torso, limbs or deep within the abdominal lining.
- Chondrosarcoma — This cancer occurs in the cells of the cartilage, mostly in adults over the age of 40.
What is Mesenchymal Chondrosarcoma?
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD), Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma is an “extremely rare, often aggressive form of cancer” which is an uncommon form of chondrosarcoma.
“Conventional chondrosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that arises from cartilage cells. Cartilage is the specialized tissue that serves as a buffer or cushion at joints. Most of the skeleton of an embryo consists of cartilage, which is slowly converted into bone,” the organization explains. “Approximately two-thirds of cases of mesenchymal chondrosarcoma affect the bones, especially the spine, ribs or jaws. The remaining cases occur in areas of the body other than bone (extraskeletal, that is, occurring in soft tissues like muscle and fat).”
Additionally, mesenchymal chondrosarcomas occur more frequently in young adults.
Symptoms of this type of chondrosarcoma can be hard to spot and a large number of individuals could see pain and swelling in an area affected by the disease.
“Such vague symptoms can be present for a long time before a diagnosis is made. If a tumor grows large enough it can compress nearby structures and cause additional symptoms,” NORD explains. “For example, a tumor that compresses the spinal cord can cause paralysis, while a mesenchymal chondrosarcoma in the eye socket (orbit) can cause pain, swelling, visual disturbances, and protrusion of the eyeball (exophthalmos).”
Maintaining Support Through Cancer
When you are fighting cancer, it can be hard to remember the good in life. No matter what treatments you are undergoing, it’s important to maintain a support system around you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to go on, seek help. And talk to your physician. Your physician can recommend support groups or other professionals that can help make your journey easier.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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