October 26, 2017
Two-time synovial sarcoma survivor: Why I’m the luckiest person on the planet
BY Kate Huggins
I would like to say I survived cancer twice by being a positive person. But that’s not entirely true. Cancer was the hardest thing in the world.
After a fun four years of running cross country and track in high school, I decided to attend a local community college in Houston while I figured out my life. I also decided to take care of the big, annoying bump growing in my elbow joint, occasionally cutting off circulation to my hand.
That’s when my life came to a screeching halt. I was 20 years old, and I was told I had synovial sarcoma in my left elbow. I had no idea what that meant or what I needed to do. All I knew was that it was cancer and I had better things to do.
Family support kept me strong
My parents and five siblings also had to absorb my horrible news. I felt guilty for burdening them with my cancer and so out of control. But my parents are two of the strongest people I know. They kept their game faces on, even though we all were confused and worried.
After surgery to remove my sarcoma, I went to MD Anderson, where I met the most amazing team of doctors, including my sarcoma medical oncologist, Shreyaskumar Patel, M.D. I needed radiation and chemotherapy to ensure the cancer was completely eliminated and to prevent a recurrence.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in a fog the whole way home. But at some point, I decided to suck it up and accept my situation. I needed to be strong, too.
My sarcoma treatment side effects
Chemotherapy made me so sick, and I lost all of my hair. I was angry at the world and wanted desperately to escape treatment and just be normal again.
With the help of my parents, who took care of me every single day, I finally made it to the end of my year of treatments. My hair grew back, I started working as a waitress and moved into my own place. I felt normal again.
Uncertainties and a recurrence 14 years later
Despite my return to normal, I kept wondering if I could get pregnant after chemotherapy because it was so hard on my body.
As I got older, I began to accept that I might not have children. So, I focused on work. I was a procurement coordinator in the oil and gas industry.
Then, I felt a little bump in my left arm. An ultrasound revealed my synovial sarcoma had returned 14 years later. How on earth was this happening again?
Luckily, all I needed this time was surgery with MD Anderson’s Kelly Hunt, M.D. She and her team were outstanding – my arm looks just fine and I am able to use my hand.
Love and kids after cancer
I landed a new procurement position in oil and gas. As time went by, I realized I had a crush on my boss. The next thing I knew, we were in love, he proposed to me and we booked two tickets to Las Vegas. The week of our wedding we found out I was pregnant.
We had a beautiful baby girl ten months later in August 2016. Then less than two months later, we found out I was pregnant with twins, a girl and a boy. And I thought, “How on earth did my chemo-ravaged body even get pregnant?” I couldn’t believe all these blessings were pouring in. My twins were born in June 2017.
Never give up
With a loving husband, three beautiful kids and the ability to still pursue my passion for running, I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. (I am running my fifth marathon in Houston this January.)
When I started my sarcoma treatments 17 years ago, I never thought God would bless me like this. Now, at 38 years old, I still don’t know why I had cancer at age 20, or why I got cancer again, but I don't care. Cancer taught me some major life lessons to pass on to my children. Hopefully, my journey will help my kids navigate their lives or inspire them when they need it.
I plan to teach my kids what really matters in life: love, family, hope, faith, strength and perseverance. I also hope my story will remind those riding on the cancer ship to never give up — no matter how long and crazy the ride.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Hopefully, my journey will help my kids navigate their lives or inspire them when they need it.