Laura’s ambition was to become a PE teacher but due to her diagnosis she has had to make changes to her career aspirations. With true determination she has continued with her studies and has set her sights on a new profession as a Sports Therapist or Coach. In her own words Laura has shared her story with us.
My symptoms weren’t so obvious; however, I had always complained I ached a lot and had some pain since Year 7 at school when I was 11. I just put it down to the fact of the amount of sport I played. I have had X-rays and numerous hospital appointments from September 2017 because I had an initial accident playing football. My diagnosis and first operation happened January 2018. I continue to have regular check-ups now, currently I have gone to my first three-month milestone, so I'm seen every three months now after being seen every six weeks for the last year.
I wasn’t aware that I had a tumour until I had an accident playing football, it was found on X-ray by the radiologist. They thought I may have fractured/broke my ankle as I had a lot of pain and swelling. Thankfully the X-ray was clear, later that day though the nurse who we saw at the walk-in centre called and said the radiologist saw something on X-ray and that I would be referred for an MRI and that I should get an appointment within two weeks.
After two weeks came and went my mum started chasing for the MRI appointment. She was told the process isn't like that and the referral would have to be made by the GP. Eventually I saw a consultant who initially diagnosed me with a suspected Chondroblastoma with (ABC change) a bone cyst. I then went on to have an MRI and then I was referred to the specialist sarcoma unit at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, where I had the operation and biopsy done all at once to treat and diagnose the tumour. Which is when they discovered it was a Giant Cell Tumour of the Bone, this operation took place in January 2018.
The tumour was in my left ankle in the Talus bone, which is the main supporting bone and its tiny! The first operation in January 2018, I underwent curettage and pro dense filling which is like fake bone to fill the hole where the tumour was.
I was given a 25-30% chance of recurrence. Unfortunately, I had a recurrence within 3 months which was confirmed by an MRI. I knew it was back though as I was getting sharp shooting pains. I had 3 tumours in the talus this time and the surgery was more extensive.
The second operation consisted of a fibula osteotomy which means they surgically break the bone and remove it, so they have better access to the talus where the tumours were. I underwent curettage and pro dense once again. This carries the same percentage of recurrence. They then put a metal plate and 6 screws into my fibula. This operation took about 5 hours all in all from start to finish. Both operations were at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the treatment I received was outstanding. I am now currently receiving physio and hydrotherapy sessions at a local hospital.
So far, all my X-rays of my chest have come back satisfactory, although I know it’s incredibly rare but can still happen where GCT can spread to the lungs.
At the time of diagnosis, I was sitting my GCSE’s and I continued at school until I had completed them. I found it all so stressful but my school, my mum and dad, with the help of my GP got me counselling... Which I have found really helpful.
I am now in year 12, my first year at college, and I am studying a BTEC level 3, 90 credit diploma in sport, but because the RNOH hospital where I was having my treatment is far away from where I live, I've missed many days of schooling due to recovering from both operations.
I also miss quite a lot of college and have regular counselling. I originally wanted to become a PE Teacher, but I realised it is too physically demanding so I’m pushing towards Sports Therapist or Coach.
I found it very difficult with my initial diagnosis, and I’m still struggling now but I’m more aware of what I’m dealing with, now that I’ve experienced a recurrence.
What has helped me going through diagnosis was searching for online support groups. My tumour has its own Facebook group page and the information and support they have provided and still provide is invaluable to me, my family and friends.
If I could give any advice, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! Every time I see my consultant I make sure I have a long list of questions for him to answer. And It’s okay to be sad, every ache and pain I fear for recurrence, and I’m waiting with bated breath what the next scans will bring.
My condition is rare and if it wasn’t for the Bone Cancer Research Trust I wouldn't be as well informed as I am. Knowledge is definitely power, so live life to the full and be happy.
Laura collecting stamps for the Bone Cancer Research Trust Stamp Appeal
At RNOH Stanmore, there's a quote that I found inspirational on the children ward it read " Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations"
There is always hope. Lots of love Laura Nash ❤