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Survivor Interview – Trinika C.

Trinika is an osteogenic sarcoma bone cancer survivor. She talks about physical rehabilitation, body image and losing her hair, and emotional support.

A smiling young woman wearing glasses and a gray sleeveless shirt is interviewed against a white background.

I was a basketball player, 8th grade. I did a split at practice one day. I felt a small pull in the innermost part of my left thigh. I ran on it for like two weeks. and then I began to have a loss of function in my leg. I couldn’t bend it completely. I couldn’t run without dragging my leg. And then I had a small mound my thigh bone. And we treated it like pulled muscle. I went through therapy with one of our trainers for basketball. That didn’t work. It got worse.

In January 1993, I went to the Houston Clinic, and I had an x-ray done. And, of course, a big cloud showed up on mine, and I asked, “What in the world is that?” The doctor determined that it was a tumor. He forwarded me to an orthopedic oncologist. They did a biopsy, on January 17, 1993. That’s when I found out I had cancer. I was coming out of the biopsy, and the doctor woke me up, and said, “The tumor is cancerous.”

I started taking chemo in January. I didn’t have bone transplant surgery until April of 1993. By that time the chemo had killed 90% of the cancer. In the bone transplant, they cut almost all of my left thigh bone out and replaced it with another bone. I had a plate put in, screws and everything, and got a new set of crutches and was well on my way. I continued taking the chemotherapy until March of 1994. The doctor said, “Okay. you’ll probably be on the crutches from six months to a year.” So at six months, I stopped using the crutches. I broke the plate by putting too much weight on it. I had to have another reconstructive surgery, in October of 1993.

I stayed on crutches until ’97. I got off the crutches right before college. I went my first two years without crutches. Then in 1999, the bone itself broke in half. The bone broke in half again a year later in 2000. I just got off the cane in November 2002. And now, I am free of cancer and free of crutches.

With chemo, I actually gained weight. After three months without the steroids or anything, I just naturally gained weight. I gained 20 pounds probably over a span of three months. That’s with the fluids and the food. I’d hardly ever got sick. I had the highest doses of Methotrexate and Adriamycin. You don’t feel normal. You have the metallic taste in your mouth, very sore gums, sores in your mouth, those kinds of things. But as far as being nauseated, it really didn’t do much. So I was very blessed.

My hair fell out, and that did not bother me at all, because I’m a tomboy. I didn’t have to curl hair. It was fine with me. I wore bandanas. I’m one of those, if it’s not my hair, I don’t want it on my head. My mom was like, “Well, they can make you a wig with human hair.” I told her, “No. That’s not gonna work.” So I had a bandana. And people used to buy me bandanas all the time. I had a bandana that matched every outfit I had. It started a trend at school, and a lot of people started wearing bandanas at school because of that.

I usually would go on a Friday to have the chemo. I would miss school on Friday. And I’d stay that weekend at Eggleston with the chemotherapy treatment. My mom didn’t have to work on weekends either, so that worked out well. We would come back on a Monday, and I’d usually go to school that Tuesday or Wednesday. I told my mom, “I cannot sit at home. I’m not sick. I can go to school. I mean, just talk to my teachers and allow them to give me time to get to class. You know, I’ll be fine.” It worked out really well.

Physically, you go from walking on your own, being very active to walking with aid for up to six months to a year, maybe more. I was on crutches for four years. Having to make that transition, that’s the hardest part. I’m an independent person. Having people opening the doors for you or carrying stuff for you was hard. I had needles everywhere when I first came out of the surgery. I told my mom, “There is no way you’re giving me a bath. I’m 13 years old. You can’t do that.” I wanted to do everything on my own.

Not being able to carry my books, not being able to go out in big, big crowds, because they could trip over my crutches or cause me to fall, which could cause me to break my bone again and have surgery again, that’s one of the downfalls. Not being able to do the physical activity and seeing all my classmates run around, participating in the sports that I participated in, and not being able to do it myself again. I had to get over it, but it did hurt a couple of times.

I did learn how to walk on the crutches correctly. Not leaning on them, but actually pushing up and using your upper body to get around. I walked on my crutches everywhere, and I walked at a rate a normal person would walk. It got to the point where I was a pro. I went everywhere. I did everything myself. I still tried to avoid the big crowds. Even when I was in school, I’d carry my own books and that kind of thing. Muscular strength and muscular endurance, build up walking on the crutches. You can still swim. When you’re in the water, you’re weightless. You can still swim. It’ll actually help. It’s very therapeutic. It’ll help build up the muscle.

Right now, I don’t have any physical issues. The only thing is I can’t do anything too strenuous. I can’t run right now. I have not run since 1992, and that’s all I used to do. I am looking forward to the day when I can run again. I told people, “I think I might be like Forrest Gump.” Just keeping running. They’ll have to tell me to stop.

One thing I can tell a survivor is the cancer does not define who you are. It’s just a part of life. We all have our obstacles. We all have our trials. Unfortunately, cancer was one of mine. It does not define who you are. If you have goals, just go ahead and do what you can. Don’t stop physical activity. Don’t stop living. Set your goals, complete them in the best way you can. Keep going, just know what your limitations are.

Cancer helped me learn more about myself and more about life itself. I value life more and love it more. I appreciate friends and family more. I appreciate other people more. I met so many other people. It was a cultural experience. I’m a more eclectic person. I love some of everything. Having that attitude of “I got through cancer; I can get through anything else” is a good thing. I had the inner strength that helped me deal with other problems in different areas and to be able to work through them. It will help you find the inner strength.

As a survivor, you’re gonna be a light to other people. Don’t be saddened by the fact that you don’t look like the other girls, and you can’t have the hairstyles and can’t do the running around. Be proud of the fact that you do have the strength to keep living and you will do what you can do. Know that you are a light to other girls. Being able to deal with something like cancer, something life threatening, but not actually allowing it to threaten your life is inspirational to other girls. Don’t ever forget that you truly are an inspiration to other people.

Survivorship is just really living. It is dealing with cancer and living with it. Survivorship definitely is knowing that I have it. I don’t stop living. I’m gonna deal with it. I’m gonna live with it. And I’m gonna get through it. It’s having that determination to live.

My name is Trinika Crawford, I’m 24 years old, and I am a 10-year bone cancer survivor.

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