Raising vital funds for chondrosarcoma research.

Laura's Story - told by her partner Godfrey

In Laura’s own way, she really wanted to get on with things and carry on living her life.

It was in August 2013 that Laura found a lump… She had visited her GP and was sent for scans to check if it was breast cancer due to the lump's location. Laura always suspected that it wasn’t that. She never panicked outwardly at that stage, somehow she just knew it was not breast cancer. After a while, the lump grew and she eventually went back to the GP to have it all checked again. Knowing Laura and how brave she was, the time she took to get things checked over was probably her way of protecting those around her that she loved the most. She wanted to live life to her fullest and wasn’t going to let this lump get in the way.

Laura was sent for various scans and finally a biopsy. All this culminated on 28th November 2013 when Laura was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma on her sixth rib. A week later they had scanned her whole body. Luckily, at this point, it had not spread anywhere else in her body. Within 2 weeks of her diagnosis, Laura was operated on to remove the cancerous lump, four ribs and a mass of tissue from around it. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy were not an option and removal was the only course of action. Laura was also fitted with a prosthetic membrane to ensure that her internal organs were protected. She spent around 2 weeks in hospital and managed to get out just in time for Christmas 2013.

Laura had always wanted to start a family and was worried about what to do next. The operation had been successful and so she asked her surgeon what she should/could do. She always recalled the surgeons words, “…I didn’t perform this surgery, for you to not go and live your life!” After some (quick) thinking we decided to start our little family. Two years after we started dating, we had had our first child. It was June 2015 and in the run up, the doctors were worried that due to the lack of ribs, Laura may not be able to give birth naturally. Ever one for nature and all things natural, Laura was determined and had a natural birth on little more than some paracetamol and some gas and air. All this whilst missing 4 ribs from the right hand side of her chest wall! No mean feat! She was so proud to be a mother. Despite having a large proportion of her chest on one side removed, Laura exclusively breastfed our son from the other side. She was an avid advocate of breast feeding.

A couple of years had passed and Laura’s checkups had moved from 3 monthly to 6 monthly. In December 2017, we had our second child. Another natural birth and exclusively breastfed again. She kept up with the demands of being an amazing mother and a brilliant teacher who had always loved working with children despite all that had happened to her.

By November of 2018, Laura was given her 5 years clear! We had a very quiet night in with a bottle of bubbly. It was like peace of mind… A feeling that your future had just been secured. This also coincided with us being engaged for 4 years.

In early 2019, Laura turned 40. A birthday that at one point, she was not sure that she would ever make. We celebrated it in style and had a great weekend with our children. Laura had said that she was very much looking forward to her 50th if this was anything to go by! 6 months later, Laura discovered a second lump. This time, on the right side of her head. She went in for her regular scan at Stanmore, but they said that they were not worried and that she should see her GP. Her chest x-rays were clear and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Laura went to see the GP and initially, they gave her some ibuprofen gel to rub on until it decreased in size. Instead, it grew. Laura returned to the GP. This time she was referred to UCLH in London. If she was worried, she didn’t let on. Her bravery in dealing with the situation meant that she just wanted to live her life and she wanted the same for those around her. In truth, we all panicked a little. By this point, I think Laura feared the worst, but the summer holidays were fast approaching, and nothing would stop Laura making the most of them.

We went away with close friends in late July/early August. In the meantime, Laura’s referral had come through. When we returned to England, Laura went for various tests and biopsies again. This was the point where Laura knew what was happening to her. The rest of us held hope. In our heart of hearts, we all knew that the cancer had returned. We hoped that there would be a solution as there was the first time. Only Laura had really worked out the truth of the whole situation. The doctors accelerated everything.

On 30th August 2019, we were called to UCLH for a meeting with a surgeon and the oncologist. There we were given the terrible news that Laura’s cancer had spread to multiple places in her brain, her right lung and her back. The cancer was now incurable. The strange thing was that at this point, other than the lump, Laura had shown no symptoms of being ill in any way. This made the news even harder to take. Nothing can prepare you for being told that your loved one is going to die imminently. I can only imagine what it is like to be told that your own life is going to end. Laura took it with dignity, as she always did.

In Laura’s own way, she really wanted to get on with things and carry on living her life. She was determined to teach again and went back to work almost immediately. She had found a profession that she loved and couldn’t face not ever doing it again. We spent lots of time as a family. She had planned so much for us all to do, including our marriage due on the 12th October 2019. Unfortunately, by late September, Laura’s symptoms had started to present themselves. She began to have headaches in the morning and was growing more and more tired. What made all this harder, was that during the daytime, Laura felt and looked well. The stunning thing through the whole ordeal, even back to 2013, is that unless you knew about her illness, you would look at her and not know anything was wrong.

On the morning of 4th October 2019, Laura woke early complaining of a banging headache. She ran downstairs and threw up in the bathroom and returned to bed, only to be sick again. By around 11am she became less responsive and was taken to A&E by ambulance with a blue light. The doctors discovered a massive bleed on Laura’s brain. Mostly likely the result of one of the tumours in her brain having burst. The surgeons decided that surgery was not appropriate due to the positioning and size of the bleed and Laura’s condition. There was nothing further they could do for her. Hours later, Laura had lost her battle with cancer and passed away in the early hours of 5th October 2019.

We have set up this fund to raise money to support the Bone Cancer Research Trust, raise awareness of chondrosarcoma, to help with finding more successful treatment options and possibly a cure for chondrosarcoma in the future. Mostly though, it is a way of paying tribute to Laura and remembering her in an honourable way. Please support in any way that you can.

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