We are delighted to introduce our new Bone Cancer Research Trust ambassador, Rio 2016 Gold medallist Laurence Whiteley MBE.
Could you tell us a little bit about your own experience of bone cancer?
I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 14 just below my right knee, and spent about a year on chemotherapy followed by extensive surgery to remove the tumour. I had what's called limb salvage surgery which is basically replacing/reconstructing a limb by the use of metal implants and bone grafts while keeping as much function and appearance of the limb. I was treated at the RVI hospital in Newcastle on the Teenage Cancer Ward.
My own experience was very much a mixed bag. I had some very funny times when I was being treated. Most notably the time at Christmas when there was about 3 patients (myself included ) who couldn't be released home for a day or 2 for just being too unwell. I remember the local Pizza Hut bringing around 20-30 large pizzas to the ward which was amazing. Keep in mind there were 3 patients each with at least 1 parent, half a dozen nurses and that was about it. I think still to this day I haven't smiled as much as watching them deliver and open up all the boxes.
The other side: being not able to eat anything as the mouth ulcers were causing me a lot of pain and discomfort. I could go on all day, but the bottom line is it was mostly bad. Really not great. I think the term daily grind or even hourly grind fits well. But that time at Christmas still puts a smile on my face every time I think about it.
Are there any words of advice or encouragement you would like to share for current bone cancer patients?
It sucks, no two ways around that, but having some form of outlet can be really important. If there's a particular hobby you do, TV series, book, games; do them all. Learn from others and help others who are going through it. Like I said earlier I had really bad mouth ulcers but a ice cold pint of milk really worked for me and helped soothe them. Most importantly it's okay to get upset, don't bottle anything up. It's hard to do but trying to accept it does make it easier to deal with. Failing that never underestimate the power of a brew and chocolate biscuit!
We are delighted to have you on board. When did you first hear about us as a charity?
I first heard about you through my own experience and since then you've been one of my go to charities. There are several important aspects of your work to me that stand out. The most obvious being trying to beat bone cancer. After that I would say, raising awareness about bone cancer and the different types, giving people advice and helping them through it, and fundraising.
Congratulations on an incredible performance at the Olympics last year. What are your plans for the year ahead?
Rio was unbelievable and it's only started to calm down since coming back. My plans for the year ahead: we have the World Championships in October in Sarasota, Florida. Para-rowing has undergone lots of rule changes since Rio 2016 so this year's World's will be the first year they come into effect. Collecting my MBE and crossing the 10 year all clear mark have to be among the highlights this year as well. All in all it's going to be an exciting year ahead!