When New Sarpy’s Jaris Griffin began having pain in his knee earlier this year, he and his wife Laticia thought it was nothing to be overly concerned about. But after visiting a few different doctors and health specialists in June, they received news they couldn’t possibly have been prepared for. “The MRI showed that there was cancer in his left knee,” Laticia recalled. “They couldn’t get it out because it was behind the bone. They told us they had to amputate his leg.”
The scary and sudden news came as a complete shock to the couple, who just recently celebrated their five-year wedding anniversary. They went on to seek a second opinion. But after a trip to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the couple’s fears were confirmed — the only way for Jaris to beat the disease and save his life would be to sacrifice his left leg. The cancer,
“Initially, we visited a sports medicine doctor, and he thought it was PVNS (Pigmented villonodular synovitis, is a joint disease characterized by inflammation and overgrowth of the joint lining that usually affects the hip or knee),” said Laticia. “As far as it looked, it wasn’t cancerous … we had a biopsy after that, a couple weeks after he had surgery, and they said they thought it was cancer.”
Jaris was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare kind of cancer that grows in connective tissues. Sarcoma tumors are most common in the bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat, and blood vessels of your arms and legs. They can be treated by having surgery to remove the tumor, but in this case, because of its location, it wasn’t feasible to do so.
“When they told us he was going to need an amputation, it was truly devastating,” Laticia said. “We went in thinking nothing close to that.”
In addition to the shock of losing his leg, compounding matters is the fact that Jaris is diabetic and also has not been able to work since his diagnosis in June. His therapy is taxing — he has been undergoing chemotherapy and has been losing his hair. It has fallen on Laticia to carry the ball financially for the couple until Jaris makes a recovery. His diagnosis came just two years after his mother suffered a stroke, compounding a stretch of terrible luck.
“I’m trying to be strong for him,” Laticia said. “It’s a lot to deal with, but we keep God first. I just do whatever I can do.”
The trip to MD Anderson for a second opinion alone siphoned from their savings. Laticia herself has had to miss time at work due to different issues that have arisen after her husband’s diagnosis. That, coupled with frequent doctors visits and his existing needs tied to his diabetic condition have put the couple in a difficult spot.
The reality of Jaris losing his leg, of course, brings other obstacles. One potential ordeal is a process most take for granted: entering and leaving his home. The Griffins’ New Sarpy home stands high off the ground, necessitating a significant climb of stairs to reach the doorway. Laticia wants to have an elevator lift installed by the stairway, but the cost is prohibitive, and the couple has reached out to different organizations for assistance.
But the timing hasn’t helped.
“Everyone is out of funding because of the flooding,” she said. “We’ve received some help, but the lift is out of their budget.”
Laticia established a GoFundMe page to help raise money to potentially install either the elevator lift, or short of that, to install a wheelchair ramp for Jaris at their home.
“We can’t make it too steep,” she said. “That’s the challenge. But (the lift or the ramp) it could be a huge help.”
The silver lining, she said, is that though Jaris will lose his leg, the amputation is expected to leave him cancer-free.
“The blessing is the cancer didn’t travel or move elsewhere in his body,” she said. “
Jaris’ amputation surgery is scheduled for November. Laticia said the situation hasn’t robbed him of his spirit.
“Believe me when I tell you, he’s in very good spirits,” she said. “He knows he can get another leg, but not another life.”
Those interested in donating to the cause may visit the GoFundMe page titled “Elevator lift assistance” by Laticia Griffin at gofundme.com.