My brothers are quite a lot older than me and used to give me grief when I was little. This changed over the years and they became 'extra' fathers for me, guiding me, or trying to, through my teenage years.
My parents sent me off to school when I was six years old; it must've been as hard for them as it was for me. Anyway, I continued to go away to school for the rest of my education.
I was a normal teenager like any other; stroppy, sometimes rude to one's elders and betters, but otherwise pretty normal. I played sport for the school, enjoyed the outdoors and probably didn't do enough studying.
During 1984, at just 18 years old my life was going in a steady direction towards a hopeful career in the RAF when everything suddenly fell apart. I started to get discomfort in my right knee. Only discomfort at first, not enough to stop me playing squash, go running, have a game of hockey or swim in an inter-school gala. It didn't even stop me going to the Brecon Beacons with the cadets. But nevertheless, it was discomfort; it felt like something was tight around my knee.
Gradually, this turned to the occasional short and very sharp stab of pain that went away very quickly, but still the discomfort. I went to see the school doctor who wasn't really sure what it was. I was prescribed some pain killers and a session of ultrasound treatment. Still it wouldn't go away and now the sharp pains were getting more regular.
I went home after the term ended to Zambia; it was always wonderful to step off the 'plane into the warmth of the African heat and see my parents again. Africa is in my blood and I missed it terribly. I was looking forward to playing golf again with my folks too.
Then, one day, on the golf course, I found I just couldn't manage it any further. Mum took me to the doctor who sent me to a specialist. "Cartilage? yup, that's your problem, Andrew? cartilage! We can operate whenever you like!"?. Um, no way thanks. I elected to wait until I got back to the UK for a second opinion. Well, to cut a long story short, I went for the scan, followed by a biopsy and hey presto! Osteosarcoma!
Oh boy, now what? I'm supposed to be joining the RAF, I have a hockey match, I have?.. to have WHAT? An artificial knee and tibia, chemotherapy! What do you mean I have cancer?!!
The next few months were spent between school, Middlesex Hospital (London) and a flat in London. My friends were wonderful and my family couldn't have been more loving and caring. If one had to choose one's parents, then I certainly chose well. They were and still are the kindest most caring people in the world and I love them dearly.
The chemotherapy was just awful. I NEVER want to go through that again! The leg operation, however, went very well.
Over the years I have now lost count of how many operations I've had to repair my leg. Starting with a build up titanium particles from the prosthesis causing an area of large swelling that eventually burst, to finally having the tibia component revised and completely replaced by a new design a few years ago.? The leg is now by no means perfect, but it's pretty damned close! I can walk (with a stick), drive a car AND fly an aeroplane, getting my PPL in 1990.
Anyway, I'm in good health, I'm an Air Traffic Controller and a private pilot. I have a fantastic family and a good job. I have awesome friends and loving parents and I still have two legs with all my own toes. What more could I want?!
You can view a video about Andrew's journey by clicking on the video below.
Count to Ten: Fly with a Miracle
Sheila, Andrew's mum has published Count to Ten: Fly with a Miracle. Count to Ten is about Andrew's journey of miraculous pioneering surgery and his passionate battle for survival from life-threatening primary bone cancer.
Proceeds from the book are very kindly being donated to the Bone Cancer Research Trust. Many thanks to Sheila and Andrew for their ongoing support. Click on the image below to buy your copy now!