Thomas's Mum, Jane, kindly shares his courageous story.
Thomas was an excellent sportsman and played football competitively. In September 2011 he broke his hand and took some time off from playing to recover. When he started playing again, he experienced knee pain, but initially put this down to being less fit after his time off.
His knee pain got progressively worse, but he was repeatedly dismissed by various GPs at the drop-in health centre available to students. It was the sports physiotherapist at his local gym who finally suggested he needed an X-ray, and that is when Thomas’s cancer journey began.
Thomas was studying law at Sheffield Hallam University, so went for an X-ray at Sheffield General Hospital. He went for the X-ray on the Monday and was called back to the hospital on the following Wednesday, when he had an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon and an oncologist.
He was told he had suspected osteosarcoma but that it was treatable and curable. He was subsequently referred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham where he had a biopsy. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in February 2012.
Thomas was given chemotherapy treatment on the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at Weston Park Hospital. At the very beginning of his treatment, he was told there were some specks on his lungs, but his oncologist said these were nothing to be concerned about.
Thomas was given three cycles of MAP chemotherapy (methotrexate, doxorubicin and cisplatin) which meant 5 days in hospital and then three weeks at home every cycle.
At the end of the three cycles, we were told the chemotherapy had not worked and he was given further chemotherapy for the metastases in his lungs.
His medical team also wanted to try radiotherapy for his leg, so he started a six-week course of daily radiotherapy at the local hospital here in Northampton. Thomas was due to start his radiotherapy in September 2012 and even managed to squeeze in a holiday to Ibiza before his radiotherapy started. He was determined to continue life as normal.
Prior to the radiotherapy , we were told Thomas would need to have his leg amputated. Thomas was adamant he did not want this to happen so we started to look for a consultant in the private sector who would be able to perform limb salvage surgery. We managed to find a surgeon in Oxford, and in December 2012 Thomas underwent a 6-hour operation to remove the tumour and to replace the diseased bone with a titanium endoprosthesis.
The operation was successful, and the surgeon was able to achieve clear margins.
Things seemed to be going well. Thomas was having regular check-ups at Oxford and having lots of intensive physiotherapy to help regain his mobility.
We were told in April 2013 that his disease was terminal.
He was started on pazopanib a targeted treatment. We expected even with the terminal diagnosis Thomas would live for another 5 years – we lived every day in hope that there would be a cure.
In November 2013, after deferring for a year, Thomas graduated with a high 2:1 in his law degree and started the Legal Practice Course at Birmingham Law School a few months earlier in the September. By continuing to study he had a focus and did not have time to dwell on things.
In December 2013 he and his girlfriend got a flat and started looking at furniture with a view to moving in January 2014.
Over time, Thomas became increasingly breathless. One night in January Thomas had been out for a meal with his girlfriend and when he came home, he was not at all well, and spent the night on the sofa. His Dad took him back to the hospital in Oxford, where they decided to admit him as he had fluid on his lungs that needed draining. I spent the nights with Thomas and his Dad spent the days with him during this time.
On Friday 24th January 2014 we lost Thomas, my only child, to osteosarcoma. He was 23 years old.
My message to others would be to always have hope and try to live as normal a life as possible. During his 2-year fight, Thomas got his degree, started the Legal Practice Course, which was the next step in his career path to being a solicitor, and also had holidays in Rome, Crete and Ibiza. Life continued as normal as possible.