Conner Opie Posted April 25, 2013 by The Dragon's Last Ride

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It began as a dull ache in his arm in July of 2008.  Conner came home from a boat trip with a family friend and complained that his shoulder and arm ached during the vacation. Everyone thought he had just slept on it wrong or the bunk was uncomfortable.

Throughout the summer Conner continued to complain every couple of weeks of arm pain but we would chalk it up to a hit during soccer practice, football practice, wrestling match with his friends or just being an active teenage boy.  After a day or two the pain would subside but then it would come back and each time it returned the pain worsened.

Conner Age 13

That’s when our fears worsened.  Trips to the doctor’s office proved futile.  The doctors and nurses assured us he was experiencing growing pains. Looking back, our son’s bone cancer was developing during this growth period, a time when the long bones develop.   We were advised to see if the pain would go away on its own, and if not they would run some blood tests. But to check for what? A possible auto-immune disease, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis perhaps?  We didn’t know what was wrong but what scared us more was that our doctor didn’t know either.  Our son was in pain and nobody knew why. Later we learned that sarcoma cancers often go misdiagnosed during the first year or so, and early detection is crucial.

After an explosive night of pain through his right shoulder in October of 2008, I took our son to the neighborhood clinic early the next morning, expecting to finally get some answers. The x-ray revealed nothing and Conner vomited from the pain.  We were told later that soft tissue tumors do not show up on regular x-rays. It takes a contrast MRI to detect them.

Our physician suggested “maybe he has the stomach flu?”

“Stomach flu?” I hissed between clenched teeth, as I gathered our belongings, reached for my son and nearly shouted, “We are going to Children’s Hospital!”  I didn’t know who to call or what exactly what was ailing our son but I knew something was terribly wrong and we couldn’t wait any longer. I remembered our oldest daughter had seen Dr. Song for scoliosis years earlier at Children’s and I knew that something must be orthopedically related with our son, so I made the call.

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As I talked with the hospital in-take nurse describing my son’s symptoms, much to my distress, Conner added that he had fainted in the shower a couple of times of the last several weeks. He had always been an unassuming kid, who rarely complained.  If he was in pain, he meant it!   He also assured me that I was overreacting.

The nurse then connected me with the orthopedic department and we had an appointment within 3 days.  Our son Conner was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in his right scapula within 5 days.  On October 29th he underwent a biopsy to confirm the original diagnosis and to insert his Hickman line that would deliver the high levels of chemotherapy needed to save his life.  The intravenous line was necessary for the near toxic levels of chemotherapy needed to combat the cancer and not destroy his veins.  He also was given and NG tube 2 months later after losing nearly 20 pounds and underwent 8 months of chemotherapy to be cured of his cancer.

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I am pleased to say that our son is nearly 4 years cancer free.  He can no longer play soccer as his shoulder allograph cannot endure the hits and movement.  He tried track and cross country for a year and again the repetitive movement to the joint proved too painful. He has undergone 2 surgeries to repair and readjust his allograph and has been in and out of physical therapy but thankfully he is cancer free and is able to enjoy skiing and his work at the veterinarian clinic.  He will be starting his freshman year at WSU and would like to major in Computer Science.

Conner Chemo

I write this story because as a parent you must be your child’s strongest advocate and their voice. If something is wrong, speak up and don’t give up.  We never imagined our child had cancer, we thought it would never happen to us.  Yet we knew we weren’t receiving the care needed or the answers we were  seeking.  Cancer doesn’t wait and neither can you.

Team Opie 2013

5 Comments

  • Nadeem Sheikh April 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Kathy you are an amazing mother and a person on the whole. May God bless you and your family with health wealth and happiness. I just wanted to say you are doing an amazing job for you son especially writing the book. Keep it up.

    Reply

  • Lisa Phillips April 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Very well written piece, Kathy. It reads so smoothly. Good job. Enjoyed the photos, too. With Conner going to WSU this fall as a freshman, it brings back how awful Meg’s first semester of college was with her cancer. Just glad it didn’t end up taking her voice (vocal Chords) or her jaw (Roger Ebert had the same cancer of the thyroid) God’s love does indeed protect! And using our gut instincts like you and I did, led to diagnoisis for our kids. I am happy that Conner will get off to a good start at WSU for his freshman year!
    Lisa

    Reply

  • Mishakafaka April 27, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Its amazing how he was able to over come this and finally work towards being a computer science major congratz to him he soon will be reaching his potential!

    Reply

  • Laura Vosika April 28, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Kathy, thank you for sharing your story. You and your family are a great inspiration. ~Laura

    Reply

  • Pia Bernardino April 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing your plight Kathy. God Bless.

    Reply

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