Cancer and Amputation Doesn’t Stop Health Sciences Student from Landing Dream Job at Levine Cancer Institute
In March, Isabelle Hanvey, 24, threw a big party. The party was a
celebration that she’d survived cancer a second time. It was also the
birthday of “Billie,” her phantom leg, which she’d lost a year earlier
during surgery to treat the cancer that had plagued her for years.
Despite all this, Hanvey pursued her dream job – medical laboratory
science – and will graduate from Carolinas College School of Health
Sciences in April.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t Hanvey’s first bout with cancer. When Hanvey
was 5 years old, she was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a rare kidney
cancer that affects children. She lost a kidney and underwent
chemotherapy and radiation treatment until she finally became
cancer-free at 8 years old.
Years later in college, Hanvey began getting tingling in her foot and
experiencing excruciating pain in her right hip and leg.
HanveyOutside.JPGThis didn’t stop her, however, from pursuing her
dreams. In August 2014, Hanvey started the year-long Medical Laboratory
Science program at Carolinas College.
“Becoming a medical laboratory scientist was my dream job,” says
Hanvey. “I love that I will get to help diagnose diseases for patients.”
In December 2014, Hanvey learned she had a different kind of cancer –
spindle cell sarcoma – as a result of her childhood radiation
treatment. She learned she had a 15-centimeter tumor that was woven
through her leg muscles and hip joint.
“No one thought the cancer would have reoccurred, much less a different
one,” says Hanvey.
Hanvey put school on hold and started chemotherapy New Year’s Eve 2014.
She met with a surgeon who explained that her leg, hip and part of her
pelvis would need to be amputated.
For Isabelle, losing her limb wasn’t a shock. “I’d joked as a kid that
I wanted to be part robot, and now I am,” she says.
When Hanvey returned home in April 2015, she didn’t realize how hard it
was going to be. She had the phantom limb – she feels the missing limb
all the time – and had pain for the first four months. That’s when she
named her phantom limb “Billie.” “It’s a love/hate relationship because
he hurts me sometimes,” she says. “My brain just had to learn to
Hanvey, however, was still determined to finish school. “Nothing was
going to stop me, not even cancer,” she saysHanveyWorking4.JPG.
Despite being out of school for months, she only had to repeat one
class and finish three more. She is currently in her rotations and will
graduate April 29. She will walk with the rest of her MLS classmates in
She even got her dream job working for Levine Cancer
Institute-SouthPark. “It’s fantastic to be working for a cancer
center,” says Hanvey. “It’s my way of paying it forward. I know what
the patients are going through and how they feel. I can show life after
diagnosis. It’s not just cancer all the time.”
Hanvey has already paid it forward. She was doing clinical rounds at
the hospital when a mother approached her asking if she would go talk
to her daughter who just had an amputation. They talk all the time now.
“It’s important to have a support group, especially being able to talk
to other amputees,” says Hanvey. “They understand what you’re going
through and the phantom limb. They’ve been so supportive and helpful.”