By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4)– It was a rare type of cancer that required a rare type of surgery and it was all by accident that Janet Braccio discovered it. On Friday, the three surgeons responsible for saving her life were reunited with Janet and marveled at her incredible recovery. Ten months ago they didn’t know if she would survive.
Janet, an avid runner, was slowing because of a nagging pain in her left hip. After an MRI, her physician told her she had osteoarthritis- that wasn’t the end of the bad news. It got worse. Janet was told she had a tumor the size of a baseball in her pelvis. She never felt a thing because of its unusual location.
“It’s cartilage cancer so it’s inside the pelvis, it’s not outside, it’s inside the bone of the pelvis,” said Janet.
She was immediately referred to a specialist at Presbyterian St. Luke’s, one of the few facilities equipped to handle her unique situation.
“The cancer was located in an area that is in the pelvis and sacrum and so this is literally the area that connects your spine to your pelvis and so in removing the tumor, we had to essentially disconnect her spine from her pelvis,” said Dr. Ron Hugate, co-medical director of the Denver Clinic.
It was a procedure so complicated, it took a team of three physicians whom Janet later dubbed the “A-Team.” Dr. Hugate was responsible for removing the tumor, Dr. David Schnur and Dr. Anant Kumar were responsible for the reconstruction of her pelvis, sacrum and spine.
“They came together and worked so hard to put me back together… they literally put me back together,“ said Janet.
Janet was in surgery for two days, a total of 16 hours. The “A-Team” was able to remove every bit of her tumor.
“It goes to prove that the teamwork, the team approach that we take at the Denver Clinic is essential in taking these difficult cases and making wonderful outcomes,” said Schnur, co-medical director at the Denver Clinic.
Today, Janet is fully healed and cancer free. She says she can hike for about four hours at a time but her goal is to be able to hike all day. The doctors, meanwhile, are amazed she can hike at all and hope to see her running again one day.
“To see Janet smile and Janet walk and even be capable of running, I never thought that would happen,” Said Kumar, Janet’s Spinal Surgeon.
Janet says all the credit is due to the expertise of three surgeons at Presbyterian St. Luke’s and the Denver Clinic.