Evan Ruscher spent the summer of 2012 undergoing chemo and watching YouTube videos of people with prosthetic legs. He was trying to decide whether or not to have his right leg amputated above the knee.
The previous summer, he’d found a lump on his thigh. It was a post-radiation sarcoma, a rare late effect of the radiation treatment he’d received eight years earlier after surgery to remove a synovial sarcoma from the same leg.
At age 24, he was facing a second cancer but undaunted. He began treatment right away and met with surgical oncologist Wakenda Tyler, M.D., to discuss his options. They bonded quickly, even talking about bands they both liked.
“Dr. Tyler was on board with me,” Evan says. “She fought the disease as much as I fought the disease.”
Evan underwent several complicated surgeries, each aimed at preserving his leg, but the cancer and post-radiation damage proved stubborn. As he started another round of chemo, he asked Tyler about amputation, and they discussed his options.
“Dr. Tyler is meant for this field — not only as a skilled professional, but as a person,” Evan says. “She has a set of skills that you can’t teach in schools, clinics or operating rooms. That’s what makes her special.”
He then spent hours watching videos of runners, surfers, even a guy who’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. They all had basic prosthetics, nothing high-tech.
“If they’re doing all this on a simple prosthetic,” he recalls thinking, “then it’s all up to me. I finally have a chance to be in charge.”
He decided to go ahead with the amputation and had his surgery on Nov. 1, 2012.
“Within a couple of weeks, I was a ninja on crutches,” he says.
Over the last few years, he’s worked with his doctors to find the right prosthesis and finally has one that’s allowing him to pursue a career on his feet as a radiologic technologist. Complete with a microprocessor, his leg looks like it came from a Terminator endoskeleton and allows him to move without any awkward adjustments.
“I want to feel like I’m doing something important, that matters every day,” he says of his career choice.
“People didn’t know what I was made of,” he says, thinking back to his initial diagnosis. “Now I’m literally made of something different, and I can feel it.”