Cancer nearly took his leg, but New Jersey father of 6 walks again: ‘I shouldn’t be here’

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For one New Jersey father of six who overcame the odds, this Father’s Day will be sweeter than most.

Richard Monti, a real estate developer on Long Island, recently faced certain amputation after a life-threatening infection — until a determined doctor saved his leg with a complex surgery.

When Monti was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer in 2018, he thought that would be his toughest battle.

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But after having surgery last year to repair his fractured upper shin bone — which had been damaged by years of cancer and radiation therapy — Monti developed sepsis, which threatened both life and limb.

Richard Monti, a real estate developer on Long Island, recently faced certain amputation after a life-threatening infection. A determined doctor was able to save his leg with a complex surgery. (Richard Monti)

It is relatively common for cancer patients to experience these types of fractures, according to Dr. Nicola Fabbri, chief of the Division of Orthopedic Oncology at NYU Langone Orthopedics, who treated Monti.

“When cancer is metastatic and goes to the bone, fractures do occur — it’s actually the main complication,” Fabbri told Fox News Digital in an interview.

“Probably 50% of people who develop bone metastases develop fractures.”

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While he was intubated and in a coma for several weeks, Monti underwent six surgeries to clean out the infection and try to restore his bones.

“They told my wife she should get prepared,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview. “They didn’t expect me to make it.” 

Monti did pull through — but when he woke up, doctors delivered even more devastating news.

Richard Monti & family

Richard Monti, center, is pictured with his family, who helped him get through his long ordeal. “I’m really living a normal life now,” he said. (Richard Monti)

“I was given basically one option, and that was amputation,” Monti, now 64, said in an interview with Fox News Digital.

The news sent Monti, who thrives on working on his feet, into a “very, very dark place.”  

He said, “At that point, I was probably at my lowest. When my body moves, my mind moves. Losing that leg — I thought that was the way my story would end.”

“I was given basically one option, and that was amputation.”

Monti sought a second opinion from Dr. Fabbri of NYU Langone Orthopedics, who was highly recommended.

“When I met him, I loved what he said — ‘We don’t just cut legs off,’” Monti recalled. 

After many tests and scans, the doctor told Monti he was “going back to the drawing board,” a nod to Monti’s building background.

“My wife and I started crying and smiling,” Monti recalled.

Dr. Nicola Fabbri

Dr. Nicola Fabbri, chief of the Division of Orthopedic Oncology at NYU Langone Orthopedics, was determined to save Monti’s leg. (Dr. Nicola Fabbri)

The doctor said he was hoping that given time, Monti’s sepsis would resolve, and his soft tissue would recover enough for a successful reconstruction surgery. 

Monti’s case was complicated. He was dealing with an unhealed fracture of the upper part of his tibia, tissue damage from the sepsis infection, and significant bone loss and weakness from the radiation treatment for his cancer.

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“The sepsis was probably linked to being immunocompromised due to his cancer treatment,” Fabbri told Fox News Digital.

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‘Performed miracles’

After Monti had some time to heal, he was deemed ready for surgery. 

After 15 months of being in a brace and on crutches, Monti underwent a limb-preserving surgery consisting of a complex knee and tibia reconstruction.

While placing a new knee implant, Fabbri was able to correct the severe deformity caused by the fracture. 

During the 11-hour surgery, which took place on Oct. 17 of 2023, the doctor also removed damaged parts of the tibia and replaced them with metal implants.

Richard Monti

“That doctor and his team did perform miracles in my eyes,” Monti said of the surgery that saved his leg. (Richard Monti)

Now, Monti is pain-free, back to work — and able to walk without a cane or crutches. 

“That doctor and his team did perform miracles in my eyes,” he said.

Monti still takes a chemotherapy pill once a day, and his tumors are now “very small, less than a centimeter.”

“For me to still be here — it means God’s got work for me to do.”

Although Fabbri has performed similar surgeries in the past, he noted that the circumstances of Monti’s challenges were “extremely rare.”

“This was a particularly challenging situation,” he said. “I never thought he could come back at this level. It’s really remarkable where he is today.”

Walking on beach

Monti was able to walk on the beach just a couple of months after his surgery. “He can walk as tolerated with no support or limited support,” his doctor said.  (Richard Monti)

Although Monti can’t run, he has “no substantial limitations” in his daily activities, his doctor told Fox News Digital. 

“He can walk as tolerated with no support or limited support,” Fabbri said. “He sent me a video of him walking on the beach. It’s fantastic.”

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Throughout Monti’s darkest days, he said he drew strength from the love for his family — including his wife, five daughters and one son — and his faith.

“For me to still be here — it means God’s got work for me to do,” he said. “So I’m going to continue to do that work, because I honestly shouldn’t be here.”

Richard Monti and daughter

Largely inspired by her father’s health journey, one of Monti’s daughters, pictured, has decided to pursue a career in nursing. “I’m so proud of her,” the dad said. (Richard Monti)

Recently, Monti was able to attend his daughter’s high school graduation, visit the college she will attend in the fall and enjoy a walk on the beach. 

“It used to be that every step I took reminded me of cancer,” he said. “Every step was so painful. But now I really don’t think about it.”

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“I’m living a normal life now.”

Largely inspired by her father’s health journey, one of Monti’s daughters has decided to pursue a career in nursing. 

“Not everybody is so resilient.”

“I asked her why she was so determined to be a nurse,” Monti said. “She said, ‘Sitting there watching you all those months, I learned I had a lot to offer.’ I’m so proud of her.”

Fabbri credits Monti’s determination and positive outlook as being inextricably linked to his successful outcome.

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“Not becoming discouraged and still willing to go ahead — it takes a lot of guts and determination,” he said. 

“It takes a lot of strength to believe in yourself and your physician. Not everybody is so resilient.”