Michaela’s Story


Defeating bone cancer

Imagine being told you would be in surgery for 22½ hours.

Now imagine being told you might not come out of that grueling surgery alive.

That’s exactly what happened to Michaela Baer who had a rare type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma which had taken hold of her cervical spine, requiring the young woman to receive specialized cancer treatment at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).

“They saw a shadow in my spine and it was cancer.”


“I had really acute neck pain for several months… to the point where I couldn’t turn my neck at all and I literally had to roll out of bed,” she recalls.

Treatment began with chemotherapy to shrink the tumour and was followed by a two-day cancer surgery by Dr. Charles Fisher, Head, Combined Neurosurgical and Orthopaedic Spine Program at VGH. After a lengthy recovery in the ICU, Dr. Fisher then performed a second surgery on Michaela.

“I’ve never experienced anything in my life quite like chemotherapy – it just rattles your entire body,” says Michaela. “I had a 22-hour surgery to remove three vertebrae in my neck and put a piece of my pelvis there instead. That was a really hard thing to recover from.”

“When we took the tumour out, there was nothing supporting her head on her body,” explains Dr. Fisher. “So we had to reconstruct her spine to hold her head back on.”

“I had a 22-hour surgery to remove three vertebrae in my neck and put a piece of my pelvis there instead.”

VGH is the main provincial resource for people with complex cancer surgeries. Thanks to the specialized medical team at VGH, Michaela is now cancer free and leading a happy, normal life.

“After successfully fighting my cancer, I have been given new insight into the importance of living every day to the fullest. The quality of care and exceptional attention I received during my illness—from the skill of my surgeon to the compassionate care of my nurses and physiotherapists—is why I am here today healthy and able to tell you my story.”

“VGH is the only place in BC where this kind of complex surgery can happen so I was very fortunate to be able to receive care there.”

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Your donations will equip our medical teams to care for patients like Michaela in need of specialized cancer treatments and to save more lives. It’s vital that world-class care continues to be available to anyone living in BC who may find themselves in a life-threatening situation.