Given six months to live, osteosarcoma survivor defies the odds

By Maria Georgiou
Interview by Kemeisha McDonald

Vinesha Ramasamy endured a life defining moment when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 15, the same type of cancer that Terry Fox was diagnosed with at the age of 18. It is an aggressive cancer that forms a tumour in the bone, often requiring amputation or surgery.

“That is when I realized my life was going to change dramatically and it would never be the same,” says Vinesha. “Since the cancer was so aggressive, I started cancer treatment that day. I was wheeled right from that diagnosis to in-patient care down the hall.”

She went through many rounds of chemotherapy and a surgery that removed the tumour. Although Vinesha still had her leg after the surgery, she lost her ability to walk.

“I had to be put in a wheelchair. I couldn’t go upstairs for over a year and still had to do chemotherapy through all of this,” says Vinesha. “My life and my world were limited. I had to be around my parents, the hospital and live in a small space that I could manage in.”

Four years later, in her second year of university, Vinesha began coughing up blood and having seizures. She immediately knew something was wrong. Her doctor sent her to get a CT scan and tests revealed a tumour in her lungs. 

Doctors told Vinesha she had six months to live and that they would do everything they could during that time. Since Vinesha had maxed out the amount of safe chemotherapy treatments with her osteosarcoma diagnosis, the doctors had to try something different.

She was enrolled in a clinical trial at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. After a few cycles of the trial, the tumour began to shrink.  

“For whatever reason, things happened and are happening the way they are,” says Vinesha. “I couldn’t listen to what people said or what the statistics said. Cancer doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Even if you survive, it’s the beginning of redefining life.”

In the last few years, Vinesha has started to build her independence. She has learned how to walk again and hopes to use her voice as a resource for patients and survivors going through similar experiences who may feel isolated like she once did.