In October 2011, Chris Robinson lay in his hospital bed and watched runners, many dressed in a Halloween costume, race around the General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital for Rattle Me Bones, which raises money for bone cancer research.
“The Ottawa Hospital is so compassionate,” says Chris. “You need research because without research you’ll never have a cure, but you also need compassion.”
And Chris knows very well the compassion of the staff at the Hospital. What was supposed to be a three-hour surgery and three-day stay in hospital turned out to be a 15-hour operation with 78 days in hospital.
“Afterward, the nurses told me they didn’t think I would every get out of bed,” says Chris, who lives in Pembroke, Ont.
Following a dislocated hip in 2008, Chris went to physiotherapy for three years. His pain level increased, and his physiotherapist urged him to see a doctor. After an x-ray, two biopsies and two blood tests a week for eight weeks, Chris met with an orthopedic surgeon in October 2011. The surgeon told Chris that he had a rare and undetectable cancer called chondrosarcoma.
“Before the surgery, the plan was to replace part of my pelvis with a metal plate,” says Chris, who was 50 at the time and working as a licensed plumber. “But when the surgery started, the tumour was so huge that they removed the entire left side of my pelvic bone.”
Chris says he is the seventh patient in Eastern Ontario, since 2007, to undergo a hemipelvectomy. Previously, he says, surgeons would have had to amputate his leg.
Four years and many, many hours of rehabilitation later, Chris’s matter-of-fact no-nonsense attitude helps him accept the good with the bad. He is able to walk with crutches, but he can no longer swim or go for long hikes. He can tap his foot, but he can’t lift his leg and has to rely on asking for help. He’s independent and can go grocery shopping, for example, but he can’t push a shopping cart, so he’s limited to eight items at a time. He can drive, but he can’t sit for more than six hours.
“Almost four years later I have become physically and mentally stronger,” says Chris. “I now move forward, accepting what I have, and I try to be strong for others who are entering their cancer journey. Until you experience it, you don’t realize how terrible it is.”