Charlotte woman beats 25-centimeter sarcoma tumor

Felicia Pollard shared her cancer survival story during Sarcoma Awareness Month.
That's a cancer that forms in the bones and soft tissues.
Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 6:31 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After years of battling a 25-centimeter tumor, a Charlotte woman is cancer-free and is sharing her story during Sarcoma Awareness Month.

Novant Health reports roughly 13,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with sarcoma every year. About 5,000 of them do not survive. Fortunately, though, Felicia Pollard is a survivor.

“My husband discovered a lump on the back of my leg,” Pollard said, remembering how her journey began. “I had no clue that it was there. And through months, it (began) to grow.”

A lifelong dancer and beauty-industry career woman who was on her feet all day, the growing lump made her sit down.

She visited doctor after doctor and was told the lump was inoperable. One plastic surgeon told her the only way to save her leg was to amputate. She was not satisfied with those answers and went to another doctor.

Pollard said her pain was “indescribable,” and the tumor grew so big that she had to wear her husband’s pants because she couldn’t pull hers over her leg.

Felicia Pollard's sarcoma tumor inflamed her leg for more than a year before her surgery.
Felicia Pollard's sarcoma tumor inflamed her leg for more than a year before her surgery.(Credit: Felicia Pollard)

“I was alarmed. She had quite a big tumor,” Novant Health Surgical Oncologist Dr. Nicholas Latchana said. “It was approximately 25 centimeters when I first met her. Being a cancer surgeon, my antennae were up.”

After Pollard and Latchana met in 2020, the doctor took her case to Novant Health’s Tumor Board for review to determine the best course of action for Pollard. The board found the tumor was sarcoma and decided an operation needed to happen quickly.

“We thought that the best course of action was to give her some radiation beforehand to help increase the chances that we can get out all of the tumor, while decreasing the chances that it will come back and helping to preserve that nerve that was there,” Latchana said of Pollard’s treatment plan. “On top of that, once I was able to take out the tumor ... we had one of our plastic surgery teams helping out with some of the reconstruction of her leg afterward.”

Latchana said Pollard also needed a skin graft and credited the variety of specialty doctors for helping her overcome her battle.

“I think that’s why she did so well,” he said. “It’s not just one person in isolation. It’s a whole team of people.”

Felicia Pollard with her Novant Health surgical oncologist Dr. Nicholas Latchana.
Felicia Pollard with her Novant Health surgical oncologist Dr. Nicholas Latchana.(Credit: FeliciaPollard)

Pollard’s scheduled treatment was completed in January 2021.

“(I was) going into surgery not knowing whether you will have a leg or not,” she said. “I was devastated because I do everything on my leg.”

“We had to take some of the muscle around the tumor to try to get it all out, but you don’t have much space at all on the nerve,” Latchana said. “We’re talking millimeters ... it’s a very delicate surgery to try to get off all the tumor, away from the nerve and preserve it and to give her good function.”

After nine hours on the operating table, Pollard’s surgery was deemed a success.

“He cut me all the way to the bone,” she said afterward. “I had a hole and now I’m left with like a half a thigh, but that’s why I’m running for my life, because he saved my leg!”

After more than a year of rehab and recovery, Pollard decided to join a friend and opened their own salon in north Charlotte in August. It is a place where she plans to hand out more than hairstyles.

“We have to change our negative things to a positive whatever that looks like,” she said. “Don’t ignore pains, signs or reactions of your body because it means something.”

Latchana agreed, and noted that the leg and abdomen are often where sarcoma presents itself.

“One of the most common ways that this cancer shows up is a painless bump,” he said. “The abdomen can hide some very, very big tumors if they’re not right on the skin ... they would need their doctor to get checked out to make sure that it’s not something more worrisome.”

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