Battling and Overcoming Sarcoma During Her Senior Year, Grace Graduates as Valedictorian

By Drew Munhausen

Grace Mosby had been a dancer all of her life. An overall top student in her class at Stratford High School, Mosby was also an officer on the school’s drill team.

It’s common for dancers to experience soreness from time to time, so Mosby powered through the pain she began to feel in her hip during her junior year of high school. She took a break from dancing during the summer of 2018, in hopes that it would help to heal her hip and allow her to get back to dancing in the fall.

The pain sometimes woke Mosby up at night. Mosby’s drill team director suggested the pain she was experiencing might not be caused by a normal dance injury.

“School was about to start and Grace was really concerned about missing classes, especially since it was going to be her senior year,” said Holly Mosby, Grace’s mother. “She is a great student and missing school can be really difficult.”

Mosby went to see Alfred Mansour, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. After an MRI and blood work, Dr. Mansour said he was surprised she hadn’t fractured her femur at that point. The bone didn’t look healthy, and it was determined it could be a form of cancer or tumor in the bone. It was recommended that she stay away from dancing, and Dr. Mansour referred her to Chappie Conrad, MD, an orthopedic oncologist affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

After a biopsy, Dr. Conrad determined that Mosby had Ewing sarcoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or soft tissue near the bone. Ewing sarcoma most often presents itself in teenagers, according to Dr. Conrad.

Dr. Conrad has extensive experience surgically treating sarcomas. Since relocating from Seattle to Houston, Dr. Conrad has been working to establish a musculoskeletal oncology service that combines surgery with medical oncology, radiation oncology, pathology and radiology to provide comprehensive, collaborative care to patients.

Mosby would have to undergo chemotherapy, followed by surgery and more chemotherapy, followed by radiation. Mosby would have to be enrolled in homebound instruction during her treatment, meaning she wouldn’t be able to attend school on a daily basis with her friends.

“I don’t think anyone is prepared for that kind of news as a senior in high school,” Mosby said. “It hit me as a shock. There were all of these things that my friends would experience that I wouldn’t. There was so much to process and one of the hardest parts was not being a part of the social activities.”

In September 2018, just before Mosby started her treatment, she attended her school’s homecoming football game. The football team surprised her on the sidelines before the game with a bouquet of yellow roses, representing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“It allowed Grace to go into her treatment on an emotional high,” Holly said. “And not only that, but when we returned home after her first treatment, our neighbors had tied yellow ribbons to all of the trees in our neighborhood – including neighbors that we didn’t know. Having that kind of support can do so much for your psyche and attitude.”

Grace had already applied to colleges before treatment began. During her initial 12 weeks of chemotherapy, she stayed up-to-date on all of her schoolwork. She underwent surgery with Dr. Conrad just before her 18th birthday in December 2018.

“Dr. Conrad always spoke directly to Grace,” Holly said. “It made a huge impact because a lot of pediatric physicians we had met in the past always spoke to the parents. Dr. Conrad was able to answer any questions Grace had. For someone who was almost an adult, this was a huge deal.”

Nearly half of Mosby’s femur (thigh bone) was resected during the procedure, meaning that part of the tissue was cut out. The resected portion of the femur and hip were replaced with prostheses.

Mosby recovered quickly from surgery and resumed chemotherapy in January 2019.

A month after surgery, Mosby was cleared by Dr. Conrad to surprise her drill team during its senior night trip to Austin.

Following four more months of chemo therapy and six weeks of radiation, Mosby was able to attend her senior prom. Despite doing all of her schooling at home between treatments, she graduated as a valedictorian of her class.

“It was an amazing experience, and my friends and family were doing everything they could to make sure I was experiencing my senior year in the best way I possibly could,” Mosby said.

She recently began her freshman year at the University of Texas, cancer-free.

“I’ve developed new friendships at school,” Mosby said. “As those friendships develop, I’ve been able to share my story. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month brings up a lot of emotions in me. I was diagnosed in September of last year, so when September came around this year, I had a lot of feelings to reflect on. I’m starting life in a new place but I still have a community I can lean on.”

For more information on cancer services at Memorial Hermann, visit https://cancer.memorialhermann.org. Use ScheduleNow to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chappie Conrad.

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