In May of 2005, Bradley was hit on the ankle by a cricket ball during school practice, this caused him some discomfort so an x-ray was taken at our local A&E.
No fracture etc was found at the injury site so we were advised to make sure he rested his leg, take Ibuprofen, Paracetamol and to avoid his beloved rugby for a few weeks. This is easier said than done for someone like Bradley who absolutely lived for his rugby. Over the next 18 months Bradley's leg continued to give him pain on and off, he would feel okay for a while, play rugby but then limp off the field, the pain would then start up again, so he would take the pain relief as told, strap and bandage his leg up and get back onto the rugby field no matter what I said.
We attended our GP twice more to seek more advice and were told once again, sports injuries take a long time to heal, keep resting and keep up with the anti inflammatories as we were. One day at the beginning of the 2006/2007 season during a match against another local team, Bradley kicked the ball towards the end of the match and collapsed onto the grass in pain and had to be carried off the field. 'Mum, this bloody leg is getting ridiculous now, I can't even kick the damn ball', his ankle was very swollen and almost the size of his calf in width at the site where he was experiencing the pain. I said nothing; anything I might have said at the time would have sounded like me saying 'I told you so' for all the times I told him not to play. However, that night just before midnight I heard him crying, and for Bradley to cry in pain I knew something had to be seriously wrong, I took him straight to A&E and they re x-rayed his leg, and this time x-rayed the whole of the lower leg and not just ankle, the doctors were all pointing at his shin, particularly the lower part of the tibia, but even with my untrained eye I could see what they were looking at, the bone was a different shade on the film to the rest of tibia and slightly rounder in shape, they indicated to me that it looked like there may have been an old fracture and I was told to keep Bradley off his feet, he was given crutches and told not to stand on the leg at all and come back the next day to see the fracture clinic, 'there you go' he said, 'I told you there was something wrong, it is fractured'.
The next day however, the consultant said that Bradley needed an MRI and CT scan, so I said to the Doctor, 'ok, when do you want him to come back for that'. 'Now he said, right this minute, I'm making the appointment and you're to take him straight there'. Oh, that set the alarm bells ringing a little bit, anyway during the scan I was trying to peek through the doors, the Radiography Consultant could see me and ushered me inside to take a look at what I could clearly see was not a normal leg, he showed me what he thought was osteosarcoma and told me that Bradley most likely had a rare form of bone cancer. I was totally bemused, I didn't know anything about cancer, never before had any of us had any experience of cancer in my own family, and there we were, told, just like that. At this time I worked in the operating theatres at the hospital so went upstairs to my theatre Sister, told her, and promptly told her I was leaving and not coming back!
To cut a very long story short, after biopsies which were carried out R.N.O.H Stanmore and more scans Bradley received the diagnosis of what turned out to be a Ewing's sarcoma. This literally blew us away, because 22 years earlier Bradley's Auntie whom he hadn't ever known had also died from Ewing's sarcoma. Such a rare cancer, hardly ever heard of, yet here we were with a 2nd sufferer in Bradley's paternal family line.
Over the next 3 years, Bradley had 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 10 were for his primary tumour on the tibia, but even these had to be cut short and the dose decreased each time gradually as his body was taking longer and longer to recover from neutropenia at each cycle, every single cycle he ended up in local care for neutropenia sepsis, severe sickness and complications. Four following cycles were for his recurrence a year later with a metastasis in his right lower jaw. This tumour developed over a short space of a couple of months following the removal of Bradley's wisdom tooth. This was extracted after Bradley complained of pain in the jaw, and he went through weeks of anti-biotics with an ever increasing swelling on his jaw and still this was ignored and put down to an abscess even with Bradley's history. I struggle to understand why this didn't ring alarms with his oncology team who even saw Bradley with this swelling and never thought to scan his jaw or look more closely at his blood results to look for elevated levels which would have indicated a new bone tumour. Chemo was then stopped after the 4 cycles when his Oncologist decided to use the High Dose Chemo and Stem Cell Transplant to try and halt the disease. This was incredibly hard on Bradley, he lost 3 stone and really went to hell and back, the most horrendous assault on his body I have ever seen him endure. Bradley also had Limb sparing surgery to try and save his right leg using a bone graft from his left leg, resulting after complications and a graft failure with a below knee amputation. He had 35 rounds of radiotherapy, culminating in Bradley having a Peg feeding tube fitted as he could no longer eat anything.
In the summer of 2009 Bradley began complaining of severe and acute back pain causing his back to go into painful seizures and the need to take ever stronger pain relief to control this pain. One day a physiotherapist was sent to the house to see if she could alleviate some of Bradley's discomfort with some exercises. On the sofa next to her was a report on a scan which was carried out a few days earlier which I sneakily read and discovered that further tumours were found on his lower spine, his skull, both lungs, lymph system and kidneys. I was annoyed at this point because nobody had told us, my GP knew and hadn't told us when we visited him the day before this and the consultant at our local hospital also knew and hadn't called. They were waiting until nearly a week away when Bradley was to have visited his Oncologist in London so that he could break the news to Bradley. However things took a turn for the worse and the next day we had to take Bradley into one of our nearer hospitals for pain relief issues and I bought up the scan results that I had read and the hospital were so sorry that I had found out the way I did about his new tumours. It was explained that they couldn't call me and tell me as I wasn't the patient as Bradley was 19 and he was to be told himself by his Oncologist. Bradley couldn't even function, he was hallucinating, delirious constantly and agitated through the pain relief he was on so he wasn't able to have taken in that sort of information, I knew then that I would lose my beautiful boy.
Nothing else could be done for Bradley, medically that is. Bradley was told that no treatment was available and to say that he was angry was an understatement, we cried together, he held me for ages, asking why they put him through all the radiotherapy and high dose treatment when all the while they knew that it was likely to come back. He was so ill by now and had lost half his body weight he just had nothing left to fight with.
We were told that they would do their best to make Bradley comfortable and that he may have only days left to live, we bought him home at the end of September, made our home into a hospital and magically spent 4 glorious weeks with Bradley. He began to eat again after not eating for 6 months, as the pain relief bought him time and comfort. He spent time with us laughing and amazingly acting like there was nothing wrong, he joined in with us, and when I say 'us', I mean the hordes of people who came to our house, stayed over, spent hours playing Xbox with him etc. But slowly over the last couple of weeks, he could tolerate his guests for just short periods, began to stop eating but still on one of his last days demanded a pint of his favourite drink, Magners, which of course we obliged him with, what harm could it really do, he enjoyed every mouthful.
While he was at home he was concerned that he would miss my 40th birthday, and on the day he was sent home from hospital I could never have even hoped that he would make it just the short 14 days to my birthday, but he did, and he wrote me most painfully the most beautiful birthday card which I shall cherish forever, Bradley continued to fight and lasted yet another 15 days from my birthday, seeing in his Nan's birthday too and finally passing away the day after on the 29th October.
Bradley wrote in a very shaky hand in my card, 'Love Always and Never Forget', these words are imprinted on my mind and my heart and I will never ever forget his beautiful smile and his smiling eyes, I have had a tattoo done on my arm to mark these words and my promise never to forget my brave boy, and promised him that I would endeavour to raise awareness and as much money as I can to help the Bone Cancer Research Trust with their research work.
The last few days of Bradley's life were traumatic for him and those caring for him, we had many ups and downs, and his last day unfortunately was not very nice, and certainly not the kind of calm passing which I had so wanted him to experience. You can never predict, I was told how the passing of someone will happen and the processes that the body goes through, but I truly hope that Bradley knows that we did our absolute best for him. In the end, he died quietly and sleeping in his final hour or so with his family all around him.
I have many questions still to be answered and one day, through the research carried out by groups such as the Bone Cancer Research Trust. I hope to get the answers I need.