After a rare cancer took more than a quarter of his pelvis, Joe Vedder was told he wasn’t likely to live another year. That he would never walk again. That he’d have to order a wheelchair.
Joe said no.
“They were trying to get me into a wheelchair,” says Joe, who grew up in Huntington Beach and loves surfing, waterskiing, fishing, and riding motorcycles. “No way. That is not me. I needed to walk again. And I would not give up.”
Joe had pelvic chondrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that started in the cartilage of his left hip socket and was treated at a nearby hospital. The cancer wouldn’t respond to chemotherapy or radiation, and the only way to be rid of it was to remove the affected bone and much of the surrounding bone.
“Dr. Allison had a solution or technique to address each issue.”
After the surgery, Joe needed reconstructive surgery to replace part of his pelvis in order to walk again. He started by meeting doctors throughout California, then sending his medical records to doctors across the United States. The answer was always, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.”
“Each time left me more devastated at the thought of living the rest of my life unable to walk,” Joe says.
He didn’t give up. He’d read about a surgeon in the United Kingdom who performed a pelvic reconstructive surgery for a bone cancer patient using an implant that had been 3D printed. He reached out to the doctor and received another polite apology.
“For months, all I’d heard from doctors were the medical reasons they couldn’t help me.”
Next, he contacted the company that made the implant. The company suggested he see Dr. Daniel C. Allison, an orthopaedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai they’d worked with in the past.
“For months, all I’d heard from doctors were the medical reasons they couldn’t help me,” Joe says. “I went through all of their reasons one by one, and Dr. Allison had a solution or technique to address each issue. I have never in my life felt such relief after meeting someone just one time.”
Dr. Allison put together a team including a urologist, vascular surgeons, and other specialists to assist with the complicated surgery. They would need to create an implant to replace the bone that was removed during Joe’s bone cancer treatment.
The process started with a 3D CT scan that would be used to create the implant. Dr. Allison’s team worked with engineers at the company that makes the implants to design one nearly identical to Joe’s original bone.
The implant arrived, and Joe was scheduled for surgery in April of 2016. The 11-hour surgery was a success, and the silver and titanium implant fit perfectly into place. Within 5 months, he was walking with a cane.
“I wish more doctors were like Dr. Allison,” Joe says. “The way he is with patients, with people. He’s got a true, true gift. Not only medically, but just the way he is with people is really amazing.”
Joe lives in Bass Lake with his wife Dana, their 5-year-old daughter Avery, and 3-month-old son Finley. He continues with physical therapy and is hopeful that by the time Finley is taking his own first steps, he’ll be walking without his cane.
“Dr. Allison took the time to help me when no one else would, and he gave me the ability to walk again. It was totally life-changing.”
Joe is a grateful patient and supporter of the Campaign for Cedars-Sinai. Learn more about the Campaign.
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