12-year-old athlete thanks UCSF for helping her beat cancer

Krystie Gomes and her family are thanking UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for helping her beat cancer.

The 12-year-old loved to play soccer and volleyball, but a constant pain in her left leg in August 2019 was slowing her down. Months of physical therapy did not help the pain and an initial blood test came back clean, but Krystie’s mother Kathy Feder asked for more tests. In late January 2020, doctors found a tumor on Krystie’s left femur.

“It didn’t register in my mind at first. I sat there and was like, ‘What did you just say?’” Krystie said.

Krystie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer in children and teens. She was immediately sent to USCF to begin receiving chemotherapy. In April, Krystie had a 9-hour surgery on her left leg to remove the tumor. Doctors inserted a rod into her leg that will fuse to the bone.

“The tumor was 10 ½ centimeters long so they ended up taking double that,” Feder said.

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When the coronavirus pandemic took hold, things really changed for Krystie. She wasn’t allowed to have friends visit her anymore and her mother was the only person allowed into her hospital room. Staff at UCSF stepped up to help Krystie pass the time. She played bingo with other patients through a television, she made slime, and began painting. The nurses would bring in canvas and paints for her.

Krystie was in and out of the hospital during another 19 weeks of chemotherapy, but UCSF arranged for her to be home on her birthday in July. More than 100 cars drove by Krstie’s house to wish her a happy 12th birthday. She returned to the hospital the very next day to continue chemo.

By October, Krystie was cancer free and rang the bell before she left the hospital.

“I don’t like being the center of attention,” she said. “I was more nervous. I rang (the bell) and I was like, OK can I go home now?”

Krystie has returned home where she is working on physical therapy. While she may not return to play sports competitively, she said she’d been happy to be a team manager or helper.

“I know I might not be able to play soccer, but I might be able to play volleyball,” she said.

Feder knows her daughter’s competitive spirit helped her beat cancer. She can’t thank the UCSF doctors, nurses, and staff enough.

“They just make you feel like… everything’s going to be OK,” Feder said.