Sofia’s story

When Sofia was nine, sore knees prompted a routine x-ray of her legs, little did the family know this x-ray would turn their world upside down.

A mass was located just above Sofia’s right knee.  At that moment, the doctor was unsure if the mass was a bone infection, or something more serious, so ordered more tests including an MRI, CT Scan, PET Scan and a biopsy. Sadly, these tests confirmed the Herrera Guerra family’s worst nightmare – the mass was a malignant tumour and on March 5, 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with high-grade osteosarcoma – bone cancer.

“There are no words to describe what a parent feels when one of their children is diagnosed with cancer. Our lives were turned upside down. You know you must be strong for your child and your family but inside you feel like dying.” said Gina, Sofia’s mum.

Just a week after her diagnosis Sofia started chemotherapy, undergoing four rounds over 12 weeks.  Then in July, Sofia went into theatre to get the tumour removed.  The nine-hour surgery consisted of a rare and complex procedure called rotationplasty, which was a partial amputation of her leg, ankle and foot, and subsequent re-attachment of the healthy lower part of her leg, ankle and foot to the remaining part of her femur, with the foot rotated 180 degrees. This way, Sofia’s ankle and foot will function as the knee joint, allowing her to have full control and movement of a prosthetic leg.

After surgery, Sofia was admitted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she received non-stop care for two days. She was then moved to the orthopaedic ward where she stayed another three nights before being discharged from Queensland Children’s Hospital to recuperate at home. A few weeks later Sofia endured another five months of chemotherapy.  Following a second surgery in December, Sofia began the rehabilitation process to learn how to walk with a prosthetic leg.

Daniel, Sofia’s dad told us “Sofia is the strongest person we know. She is always smiling and looking forward to the future. She has not complained a single time since she started this journey.

We never expected to have all the support that we received.  The staff and volunteers that are there every day to assist families like us are incredible. We also found out that without the 3D Surgical Navigation equipment funded by the Foundation, Sofia would have had to undergo a full amputation, which would have left her with less ability and a lower quality of life, so for this we will be forever grateful.”

Before cancer Sofia loved to dance and there was a time it looked unlikely, she would be able to enjoy her passion again.  However, in true Sofia style, this brave and determined young lady has her dancing shoes back on.  She is not only back dancing but has also taken up gymnastics and has gone back to school to take on Year 5.

“As a family we have had to adapt to our new life but all the sacrifices that we have had to make are nothing in comparison to what Sofia has been through and this gives us the strength that we need to keep moving forward.” said Gina.

Story written and details correct March 2021

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