By Rebecca Drew
THIS WOMAN says she prefers how she looks since her arm was amputated after doctors misdiagnosed her rare form of cancer for over SEVEN MONTHS.
Barista and mum of two, Makayla Peterson (23) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA, first noticed a bump on her right forearm in early 2018. The bump appeared to get gradually bigger so she went to the doctors to get it checked out.
Over the course of seven months Makayla went to the doctors five times but she was told that the bump was a benign tumour or a bruise by medical specialists.
By December 2018, Makayla’s bump had grown to the size of a golf ball and after a biopsy surgery she was diagnosed with stage 3b synovial sarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue cancer which forms around a joint in a limb, usually in the leg or arm.
Makayla who is mum to her sons, Ashton (8) and Finnick (2), was shocked by her rare cancer diagnosis but her naturally optimistic nature meant she was ready to face it head on.
Synovial sarcoma diagnoses often lead to amputation of the affected limb which was something that Makayla was keen to avoid. She researched different treatment options and went to a naturopathic doctor and changed her diet and lifestyle by going vegan, cutting out caffeine and taking detox baths for seven months as she wanted to try everything possible before potential amputation.
Scans showed that Makayla’s natural approach was working but not quick enough so she then started two rounds of gruelling chemotherapy in September 2019 followed by two months of radiotherapy Monday to Friday.
Eventually in December 2019, Makayla agreed to having her arm amputated as she couldn’t face any more chemo sessions, but despite initially being worried about the surgery and being frustrated that some things take her longer to do now, she loves and prefers how she looks without her right arm and is proud to be an amputee.
Makayla hopes to be an inspiration for others who are living with cancer and limb loss, to show them what makes them different makes them beautiful.
“It [my diagnosis] was right before Christmas of 2018. I was shocked because most of the doctors and the specialist I saw said it was benign so it shook my world,” said Makayla.
“I had a bump in my right forearm that kept growing. I got misdiagnosed a lot. It took about six to seven months to get the right diagnosis. By that time the bump was obvious and more like the size of a big golf ball.
“I live a fairly healthy life and the only other person that was diagnosed with cancer in my life was my great grandma who sadly passed away from it. I was diagnosed with a different cancer than her.
“Hearing that the cancer was so rare was shocking but also cool in a sense. I am pretty optimistic and strong so I knew this is just something that would add to my story.
“My cancer almost always ends in amputation. I wanted to try all the possibilities I could before I lose my arm. I went to a more naturopathic doctor and I changed up my diet and lifestyle. I did that for about seven to eight months.
“It worked but not how we wanted it to so I decided to try chemo and radiation. I was recommended three rounds of chemo every three weeks and I would stay in the hospital for four days at a time.
“I had radiation Monday through Friday for a couple months. I decided not to do the last round of chemo because I was at peace with the amputation by this time already and chemo sucks.
“I got one of the harshest kinds [of chemo] out there. Chemo made me extremely sick and weak. I would stay at the hospital for four days every three weeks but it would take me two and a half weeks to recover from my last treatment.
“I threw up a lot and had a very difficult time even sleeping and drinking water and it was even hard to watch TV. After chemo I was at peace with having my arm amputated and thought ‘it really can’t be worse than chemo.’
“I practiced with my left hand a lot before my surgery. It got me used to living life and made post op a lot smoother. The first time I saw myself without my arm I actually loved the way I looked. I prefer myself with only one hand.”
Synovial sarcoma is a very rare form of cancer with only one in one million people a year receiving a diagnosis. According to Cancer Research UK, around 80 cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.
Thankfully, Makayla’s last scan in June 2020 was all clear but she will have to be monitored for the rest of her life to make sure that cancer hasn’t returned.
Makayla currently has a prosthetic arm but she hopes to have a myoelectric one by the end of the year.
“Life after amputation never slowed down. I still have to go through the same everyday life situations and tasks,” she said.
“It’s easy for the most part but there are some things that I will get frustrated with. It takes me longer to do things so I’ve learned to give myself lots of grace and patience in this area
“I wish I loved myself as much as I do now, before I had my surgery. I want people to try to get out there to see the world and enjoy life. It really is beautiful so if anything is holding you back from seeing that, it isn’t for you, let it go.
“Looking up to amputees and following people like that helped me out so much with my journey so if I could help even one person that would be amazing.
“Just because you are not society’s idea of beauty does not mean you’re not beautiful.
“The things that set you apart from everyone else is exactly what makes you beautiful.”