An avid dancer, Kara Noyes has trained to pursue a career as a professional ballerina since the age of three. It was during one of her rigorous practices that she first began to feel progressive muscle weakness and nerve pain in her legs and feet.
Just as she kicked off her freshman year of high school, at the tender yet rebellious age of 14, Kara was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the sacrum. After the UCSF Tumor Board deemed her rare tumor inoperable, she was treated with numerous high dose rounds of chemotherapy and radiation throughout the next year. While life as a normal teenage girl can be a tough venture, Kara also faced a cancer diagnosis and losing her hair twice that year.
To keep a sense of normalcy during her weeklong stays in the hospital, Kara and her mother tried to make their hospital surroundings seem more like home. From bringing in her own mini black and white T.V. to ensure she could watch her favorite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to counting down each month of treatment with a new Beatles album, Kara and her mother found countless ways to continue their small daily routines.
“Music has always been important to me and I actually got really into the Beatles while going through treatment,” Kara said. “Whether it was starting a new book or listening to the next Beatles album on repeat, it was important for us to set small monthly goals that we could attain.”
Kara credits much of her resilience to her mother, who was the primary caretaker through it all. Her single mom often drove long distances between the hospital, work, and home each day to ensure Kara did not feel like she was going through treatment alone. It was during these drives that Kara’s mom found her own quiet time in the car, often listening and reflecting to calming classical or Hindu chanting music.
Despite her treacherous freshman year, Kara was able to complete her treatment and transition back to a fairly normal high school routine by her sophomore year.
After moving to Seattle just four years ago, Kara discovered SCCA’s Survivorship Clinic while talking with volunteers at a community fund raising event. Realizing that her follow-up care had primarily been confined to blood tests and imaging, she was eager to visit the Clinic and address some of the continuing nerve pains she had faced since her teenage years.
Kara first visited the Survivorship Clinic in the spring of 2013 and was relieved to hear that the side effects she had experienced from chemo were normal. Additionally, after having a bone density scan, she found out that she had mild density loss and could proactively work to build her bone density back up to normal levels.
“I’m happy the Survivorship Clinic exists and would encourage others to reach out and connect with people who have gone through dealing with cancer,” Kara said. “I know it feels like something that no one can understand, but I never cease to be amazed at the stories I hear from other survivors.”