‘Sully’ battles back from cancer

FAIRMONT – Sullivan “Sully” McGuire plans to celebrate his 8th birthday with a few hundred of his closest friends.

His party will be a fundraiser to help pay for cancer treatment and surgery, which included a fascinating technique his surgeon used to reconstruct his left leg.

Sully’s Warriors is organizing the benefit, which will be 4-8 p.m. March 16, Sully’s birthday. The event will be held at the Blue Earth Fire Hall because Sully’s dad, Ryan, is a firefighter.

Sully’s medical journey all started MEA week in October, said his mom, Melissa McGuire, known to most as the K-8 principal at Blue Earth Area Schools.

“Leaving the football game, he’d fallen on the grass and started limping,” McGuire said.

Actually, it was a lesion on Sully’s tongue that brought the family to the UHD medical center a few weeks later, and checking the leg was just an off-hand request.

Dr. Aaron Johnson ordered X-rays, which showed the leg was broken, so it had to be cast. Two weeks later, the cast was removed so more X-rays could be taken.

“They noticed something not quite right,” McGuire said.

On the morning of Nov. 29, an MRI was done.

“That afternoon, they called us and told us Rochester would be calling us and it looked like osteosarcoma,” McGuire said.

From there, things happened quickly.

“Fifteen minutes later, Dr. [Peter S.] Rose called; 15 minutes later, appointments were set up in Rochester,” McGuire said.

“By Dec. 6, we had started chemo,” she added.

Sadly, the diagnosis was not unexpected.

“Ryan’s side has a history of cancer,” McGuire said. “It was probably our worst fear confirmed. We were hoping our kids would be bypassed.”

Ryan and Melissa have another son, Rylee, 13.

Sully had 10 weeks of chemo and then, on Feb. 13, underwent rotationplasty surgery on his leg. The surgery is intended to give the patient a natural knee joint, instead of an artificial one.

The tumor was at the bottom of his femur, the main thigh bone, McGuire said. Dr. Rose removed bone and muscle above and below the knee, keeping the blood vessels and nerves intact. He then took the lower part of the calf, the ankle and the foot, turned it 180 degrees and attached it to the thigh bone and muscle.

“His ankle is now his knee,” McGuire said.

Sully’s left foot now points backward at the end of his shortened leg, and he will be able to wear a prosthetic lower leg over it.

The surgery accomplished something else.

“They declared him cancer-free,” McGuire said.

Sully will continue with about 20 more weeks of chemo, as a precaution to keep any remaining cancer cells from re-attaching, McGuire said.

Her son has done “amazingly” well, she said, and the cancer hasn’t changed his “social” nature.

“The chemo knocks him down,” she said, “but since the surgery, he’s made leaps and bounds.

“His motto is ‘A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,'” McGuire said. “He hunkers down and does it.”

The family deals with the situation day to day, but with an eye on the future.

“He’s looking forward to what legs he’s going to have,” McGuire said. “He tells me, ‘Mom, I need a steel leg because I’m gonna be a firefighter, so I need a steel leg.'”

Sully’s attitude comes from his family.

“We tell him you can do anything you want to do,” McGuire said. “We know he’ll do something special. We’re waiting to see what that is, but he’s gonna do something amazing.”

For more information about Sully’s birthday party, call (507) 526-4444 or visit benefitforsully@bevcomm.net online.