It’s a benign tumor (not cancer) that can grow inside bones
HI, my name is Dudy. I live in Israel, and I’m in seventh grade in Talmud Torah. I’m the eighth out of 12 children, which means I have two older brothers and nine sisters! I love to ride my bike, though we learn until five p.m. in the winter zeman, so it’s already dark by the time I get home. I like to play indoor games with my siblings and have outdoor fun with my friends.
When I was ten, an enchondroma tumor was discovered in my leg, just below and behind my knee.
Tell us about getting your diagnosis.
I used to run everywhere I went. Over time, I noticed a strange feeling in my leg that bothered me when I would run. Finally, I told my mother. At first, she thought that maybe I had sprained a muscle, but when she touched my leg, there was a hard knot under the skin the size of an orange. Of course, we went to the doctor right away, who sent us to an orthopedic specialist. He wanted me to go to the hospital for emergency surgery, but it was Friday, and Mommy wanted to talk to Rav Firer first.
Rav Firer is an askan who helps people get the right medical referrals for health problems. He recommended Professor Weintraub, who heads the orthopedic ward at Dana-Dwek Children’s Hospital in Tel Aviv. Mommy called the hospital to ask for his telephone number, and the secretary gave the phone to the professor himself! He said to come right in, and I had to do a lot of tests including blood work, a CT, and a bone scan. Then I went home because the professor was leaving Israel the next day for a few weeks.
What happened while you waited for the professor to return?
It was just before Pesach, so my siblings got all the hard cleaning jobs while I was only allowed to do things I could manage while sitting.
It was kind of scary because no one knew before the surgery whether the tumor would be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer). We davened a lot and got brachos from Rav Steinman and Rav Kanievsky.
What is an enchondroma tumor?
It’s a benign tumor (not cancer) that can grow inside bones. It doesn’t hurt and has no symptoms. Enchondroma is usually discovered by accident from an X-ray taken for another reason. Enchondroma tumors may not even need any treatment at all, though they should be monitored until the child reaches full growth. Sometimes the enchondroma grows large enough to partially dissolve the bone. In that case, even a simple fall from a bicycle or while playing a contact sport can result in a bone fracture. Such large enchondromas are usually removed surgically.
How did having an enchondroma tumor affect your day-to-day life?
The professor warned me that I must always walk with crutches, even before the surgery. Nothing hurt me, but he said that even a small fall could cause my leg to fracture and complicate my recovery.
My surgery was scheduled for Chol Hamoed Pesach when the professor returned to Israel. Until then, the Israeli Health Ministry arranged for me to have a taxi service to and from cheder! I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my leg for any reason.
Any tips for other kids with an enchondroma tumor?
Listen to your doctor’s advice! It’s only for your benefit. I was wrong to let my feelings of embarrassment cause me to ignore what I was told. I could easily have fallen, and my bone could have burst where the tumor had damaged it. The recovery would have taken much longer, and one leg might have been shorter than the other for the rest of my life!
X-rays are used by doctors to see images of your bones. Enchondromas look like small dark spots in the middle of a bone. Those dark spots have white dots in round patters like rings or arcs.
A CT scan (computed tomography) is used to get a more complete picture of the tumor than can be seen in an X-ray. A CT scan shows if a bone is eroded or inflamed and gives a clearer idea of the exact size and place of the tumor. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is an even more advanced scan that gives detailed pictures of changes in bone structure.
A bone scan is used to examine your whole skeleton to rule out tumors in other bones. The technician injects a radioactive dye into a vein to light up any tumors inside the bones.
Something I wish I would have done
I should have told my mother about the lump under my skin as soon as I noticed there was a problem. I should have used the crutches even though I hated the idea. I should have followed the doctor’s orders to lie down and raise my leg after the surgery. It’s a miracle that no permanent damage was caused.
Any interesting stories?
Even though I was supposed to use the crutches all the time, I was too embarrassed for my friends to see me like that. Every morning I hid them under the stairs when I arrived at cheder, and then I picked them up in the evening when the driver came to take me home. It was a dangerous thing to do, because if someone had accidentally pushed me during recess or on the stairs, I could have been seriously injured.
Before my surgery, in the operating room, Professor Weintraub let me administer the general anesthesia to myself. I pushed a plunger into a syringe that was attached to my IV line. I was supposed to count to ten, but by seven I was in a deep sleep.
I went home a few days after the surgery. I was ordered to lie down and keep my leg raised on pillows, but that was very boring. Instead, I sat at my desk and kept busy with different games and activities. Once a piece was missing, and I was too lazy to take the crutches, so I hopped a few steps on my healthy leg to get it — and lost my balance and crashed to the floor. Everyone came running! When I pulled up my pajama leg, my whole leg was swollen grotesquely. Help!
We took a taxi back to the hospital in Tel Aviv. I was the only patient in the ER. The nurses and doctors started to prepare me for immediate surgery to fix the damage I’d caused. Just then Professor Weintraub strolled into the ER and noticed me. He asked what I was doing there. Then he looked at my leg and told me to go home. He realized that my leg was swollen because I’d been sitting with it below me instead of lying down with it raised.
Baruch Hashem, everything turned out alright. The recovery took a few weeks, but now, it seems like it was such a long time ago — I almost forgot that it happened.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 948)
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