BRANDON — Despite undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumour near her knee — followed by rounds of chemotherapy and endless physiotherapy — Sophie Terasaki has managed to keep up with her schooling and paint an original artwork that will be featured on the Children’s Hospital Foundation’s annual Christmas card.
"She’s a remarkable girl," said Sophie’s stepdad, Bruce Bumstead, who teaches photography at Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School in Brandon. Her mom, Jennifer Terasaki, is also a teacher.
Sophie, who turns 10 next month, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma Aug. 2.
On Oct. 29, she underwent a radical procedure called rotationplasty that had never been done before at Health Sciences Centre.
Rotationplasty is an unusual procedure that preserves the lower leg, attaches it to the thighbone, then uses the ankle as a knee joint, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Boston Children’s in Massachusetts.
The bottom of the femur, the knee and the upper tibia are surgically removed. The lower leg is then rotated 180 degrees (which is why it’s called rotationplasty) and then attached to the femur. The foot now is on the end of the thigh backwards. Because it’s backward it can function like a knee.
Through physical therapy instruction, the child learns to use the foot and ankle as a knee.
The patient’s foot fits down inside a prosthesis and functions much the same as below-the-knee amputation, providing the child much more mobility than she would have with a full leg amputation.
Rotationplasty is most often used for children younger than 12 who have so much growing left to do that other types of limb salvage surgery options may not work well. With rotationplasty, the bone will continue to grow with the child, and the prosthesis can be lengthened as the patient grows.
One of the major benefits of rotationplasty compared to other surgical options is that it allows the child to maintain a very active lifestyle. The complication rate is low, and there is no phantom pain since the nerves are not cut.
There were no complications following the 12-hour surgery, Bumstead said, and Sophie is now undergoing chemo along with physiotherapy to help her get back to health and on her feet.
"She has adjusted well to the surgery," he said. "Sophie’s always looked at what needs to happen."
It’s going to be a long process that will take months before she will be ready to return home to Brandon and her school in Alexander.
Fortunately, the family was able to take an apartment close to Health Sciences Centre — Will’s Place — that is normally reserved for bone marrow transplant patients and their families but is currently empty, Bumstead said.
Westman Dreams for Kids is covering the cost for next five months as Sophie and her mom juggle hospital visits with home time.
If the apartment is needed, they will have to give it up, said Bumstead, who will be driving back and forth to Winnipeg to be with his family when he’s not working.
An education plan has been set up and Sophie is trying to keep up with her homework as best as she can, Bumstead said.
"It’s still a battle ahead of us," he said.
Meanwhile, Sophie has been selected to feature an original artwork on the cover of the Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Christmas card this year.
"We thought that was an incredible honour," her stepdad said.
The Brandon community has rallied to show their support for Sophie.
A GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/f/show-our-support-for-sophie) was set up Aug. 14. It has so far raised more than $22,000.
In August, the Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team hosted a co-ed fundraising camp at the Healthy Living Centre, while the Brandon Regional Search and Rescue Association, of which Bumstead is a longtime member, held a fundraiser for Sophie Oct. 17 at Houstons.
— Brandon Sun
Updated on Monday, December 2, 2019 at 6:21 AM CST: Adds photo