Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A chemo-free summer

Since I last had a blog update, many things have happened. I went to Children's Hospital of Phiadelphia (CHOP) for a check-up with Dr. Dormans, had my last day of 7th grade, started summer swimming and golf lessons, and went to Puerto Rico for the first time.

A chemo-free summer

Rachel hits the links
Rachel hits the links

Since I last had a blog update, many things have happened. I went to Children's Hospital of Phiadelphia (CHOP) for a check-up with Dr. Dormans, had my last day of 7th grade, started summer swimming and golf lessons, and went to Puerto Rico for the first time.

Later on this summer I'm going to a camp at one of my counties vocational high schools - The Marine Academy of Science and Technology (M.A.S.T.) - and I'm going to the Ronald McDonald camp in the Poconos. I couldn’t go to camp last year because I had just gotten my brace off after surgery, and I was learning to walk with my new endo-prosthesis.

On May 14th, I went to CHOP for a Check-up with Dr. Dormans. He wanted me to get a scanogram to check that my legs were both growing at the same rate. If the leg that I had my surgery on stopped growing, Dr. Dormans would have to go in to my left leg and break the growth plate so that my legs would be as close to the same length as possible. This is something you have to keep an eye on when you have the kind of limb salvage surgery that I had.

A scanogram is a special type of X-ray that doctor’s use for measuring the size of things like your bones. It’s like a regular X-ray but the plate underneath my leg had ruled graduations (like a ruler) so Dr. Dormans could compare the length of my legs. Dr. Dormans noticed that there was a small difference in my leg length, which led to the scanogram. At first, he thought that my left leg was longer than my right. If there were more than an inch difference, I would have needed surgery to fix it. When Dr. Dormans looked at the images, he saw that there was only a 8mm difference between the two, and that my right leg was longer than my left. This was originally planned in my surgery so that I would grow into my prosthesis. My legs are growing perfectly!

June 14th was my last day of school. To celebrate, our school holds an event called “Tar Beach.” In tar beach, the Parent Teacher Association sets up water-related activities for us to use. Personally, I think Tar Beach is more enjoyable for the younger kids, but this year was pretty fun. There was Volleyball net set up so we could play volleyball. There was an ice cream truck at Tar Beach this year (that was a first). The best thing was, that there were large buckets that could be filled with water. So with permission from Pincipal Wisk, we got to dump buckets of water on all of our teachers.

After Tar beach, my class went to the real beach. It has been a tradition that on the last day of school, our class goes to the beach to celebrate school being over for the year. It was fun, but the water was freezing and the rip currents were really strong, so my hip got cold and sore and didn’t warm up until the next morning. Other than that, I had a pretty good last day of school.

Last week, I got to go to Puerto Rico with my parents. This was my first real vacation since I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2011. My family and I  got to stay at the St. Regis Resort. It was amazing. The beach was so clear and the resort had three pools. I got my nails done at the spa and for 5 days my family and I actually got to relax. While we were there, my Dad and I went to the driving range. I hit a couple good shots, but most of them didn’t leave the tee. In all, I think that was the best vacation I had ever had.

The week after school ended, I had to start waking up at 5 a.m. for swim practice. Practice is at 6:15-8:15 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and at 6-8 a.m. on Thursday and Friday It’s not much fun having to wake up so early during the summer. But once I get to practice, it’s not so bad. I swim about 3,000 to 4,000 meters per practice. I’m still adjusting to swimming with this metal rod in my right leg but every practice makes me a better swimmer. I get a lot of support from Coach Paul and all of my coaches as well as my friends on the Monmouth Barracudas. It helps me get through practice, and they all make it fun.

Also this summer, I have started taking golf lessons. I thought I would be horrible at golf, but I am actually doing OK. So far, I have learned how to putt correctly, chip, pitch, and hit a golf ball out of a bunker. Golf is fun and as it turns out, I love it.

About this blog
Rachel Kovach, 12, is a seventh-grader at Mother Theresa Regional School in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. She lives in Highlands, N.J., near the Sandy Hook national seashore, with her parents, Mari and Kurt Kovach.

Since first grade, Rachel has been swimming with the Monmouth Barracudas, a year-round competitive United States Swimming Club program. She hopes to continue competitive swimming after her cancer treatment; if not, she envisions coaching someday or maybe a career in medicine. Figure skating and jazz dancing have been big parts of her life. One of the things she hates about being in the hospital is missing her dog Cocoa and her many friends.

Rachel's doctors

These are the key physicians overseeing Rachel’s care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Naomi BalamuthNaomi Balamuth, pediatric oncologist, specializes in treating pediatric sarcomas, a subset of solid tumors.



Richard B. WomerRichard B. Womer, pediatric oncologist, led studies of the latest chemotherapy treatment protocol for Ewing’s sarcoma.



John P. DormansJohn P. Dormans, M.D., chief of orthopaedic surgery, is an international expert in the surgical treatment of musculoskeletal tumors.


Timeline of Rachel Kovach’s Treatment

Dec. 3, 2010: Pain in Rachel's right knee is initially diagnosed as tendinitis.

Jan. 20: An MRI reveals a tumor in right leg.

Jan 24: Rachel sees John Dormans, chief of orthopedic surgery at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Jan. 27: A biopsy confirms Ewing's sarcoma.

February to mid-April: Regimens of chemotherapy alternate every other week. The three-drug regimen is given over two days; the two-drug regimen is given over five days.

May 3: Surgery replaces most of the right femur with a prosthesis.

May 5: A Children's Hospital team will help Rachel get out of bed.

May 10 to September: Alternating regimens of chemotherapy are to resume.

Around May 10: Physical therapy will begin in the hospital and continue for at least several months after Rachel goes home.

Onco Girl
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