Everyone who has seen the movie “Forrest Gump,” recognizes the phrase “Mama always told me life was like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.” My “box of chocolates” moment is unfolding as I’m writing this.
It started at the end of July, or first part of August, when I noticed a small growth coming up above an orthopedic metal plate, which is one of two, implanted in 2014 for a shattered tibia and fibula in my left ankle. At first it didn’t appear to be anything to worry about, but soon started growing very quickly. I had an annual physical appointment for August 25, 2021 and knew I would address it with my primary physician then.
He examined it and said, “This looks suspicious. So I’m going to refer you to a dermatologist to remove it as soon as possible.” The referral was made for the clinic I chose. My appointment was made for September 13th, last Monday. I was pleasantly surprised meeting the young female physician. She was very personable and caring with an instant recognition of the type of tumor walking around with me on my ankle.
“I’m positive this is a squamous cell carcinoma, a type of malignant skin cancer,” she commented as she examined it. Then I explained to her that it was atop an internal metal plate. By her reaction I believe she already knew that at the time and my primary doctor had relayed that information to her. Yet, she didn’t share with me any concern that a chronic metal allergy might have been the cause of a change of DNA molecules replenishing cells with cancerous tissue. Being a retired nurse, I did the relevant research and learned that indeed metal implants in patients with metal allergy can cause squamous cell carcinoma.
The term used by my primary physician on his referral was “Failed Orthopedic Implant Sequelae.” A sequelae is an aftereffect of an illness, disease or injury. The chronic contact with the plate at skin level apparently was the cause. No one ever asked about allergies to metal and I never thought about it because I have other body implants, like a right total shoulder replacement that is titanium. But with ankle surgery the hardware often used is more than likely nickel or chromium to withstand the total weight bearing of the body. All my life I have been allergic to certain metal used in jewelry. It is the reason I hardly ever wear earrings for my pierced ears. I am also careful of the type rings and necklaces I wear.
Since it is only recently that metal implants and squamous cell carcinomas have been discovered to have a relationship, I decided to share my story on my blog to educate anyone who may now or in the future face having an ankle replacement.
I am absolutely confident in the Lord’s plans for me, and am ready to try to climb this mountain. Hopefully I will find that we have found it early, and there will be no complications with the removal of hardware, or whatever it takes to resolve my situation. The worst scenario would be having to have an amputation, or a spread of the cancer to lymph nodes or other parts of the body, but I’m not ready to think about taking on that challenge yet. I will wait to see what God has in mind. I should have complete biopsy results and a plan by the 23rd or sooner.
Phyllis Weeks Rogers
September 17, 2021