According to a story from Deseret News, sarcoma patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute are planting sunflowers as a way to spread awareness about sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that can affect a variety of different parts of the body and often appears in younger people. The institute is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The sunflower has become a symbol for sarcoma awareness.
Sarcoma is a term to describe any type of cancer that arises from mesenchymal cells. These cells are types of connective tissue which plays a major role in embryonic development. As a whole, sarcomas in humans are relatively rare. Cancers which affect tissue such as bone, fat, muscle, blood vessels, and cartilage are all considered sarcomas. There are a great many types of sarcoma; an example is soft tissue sarcoma, and even this type has a diverse array of sub-variants. Treating sarcomas often takes a long time. Surgery is often an essential component of treatment, and chemotherapy can also provide significant benefit for many patients, such as those with osteosarcoma. Only about 15,000 new cases of sarcoma appear per year in the US.
Planting The Seeds of Awareness
Chad Jaggi, 32, is one of the patients planting a sunflower at the center. He has been facing angiosarcoma, which forms on blood vessels, and it has taken a lot from him…literally. In a desperate attempt to prevent its spread, doctors amputated one of his legs, and he must use a prosthetic to get around. His cancer has also spread to his lungs.
The institute is part of ongoing research into sarcoma, and is attempting to trace its origins. It is known, for example, that it can tend to run in families, but scientists are not exactly sure why at this juncture. Dr. Joshua Schiffman, who is a leader in sarcoma research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, says that the work is a “round the clock operation” there.
Another patient at the center, Nestor Cruz, says that that he was “born again” after his surgery, and for him, the planting of the sunflower is a powerful symbol of that healing process.