Chris very sadly passed away from osteosarcoma at the age of 24 in June 2016. Read his story about diagnosis and treatment in his own words.
My bone cancer story began in February 2008, when at the age of 15, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and later that year, I had an ‘above the knee’ amputation.It has been an incredible four and a half years since I was first diagnosed, but something very good has come out of something quite terrible.
I was always sports mad as a youngster. I joined my local football team when I was eight years old and later played for my school football team as a Goal Keeper.
My story began in February 2008 when I was 15 years old. I was playing football at school when I was studded. An excruciating pain shot through my leg and I just about managed to hobble home. My leg was swollen, bruised and tender. It was Half Term at school, so Mum suggested that I rest my leg for the week, which seemed to help. The following weekend, I went to watch a local football match in the park with my friend Jack. During half time we went to take shots at the net. As soon as I kicked the ball a searing pain shot through my leg and I had to hobble home again. Something was definitely not right and my Mum was worried about it so she took me to see the Doctor.
Dr Dublon said he could feel a lump and asked me if I had been on a long haul flight as he thought I might have a DVT. He sent me to A&E to have an x-ray. I had the x-ray taken and Mum, Dad and me sat waiting for the results. When my name was called there were three medical staff waiting to see us and they took us into a side room. We had that terrible feeling that something was wrong. Little did I know that my life would never be the same again!
Inside the room, I sat between Mum and Dad and then the Doctor said "there is no easy way to say this, but we think you have got bone cancer". Boom! It felt like my whole world had turned upside down. They told me that my left fibula was broken and must have shattered when I had been studded playing football. I was scared of what the future would hold. I asked if I was going to die or if I would have to have my leg amputated. I thought my life was over.
The very next day, I was referred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) in Birmingham. In the mean time I carried on working towards my GCSEs at college. My family and friends were a tower of strength to me.
In March 2008, I was admitted to ROH I had a bone scan, MRI scan, CT scan, x-rays and a biopsy. We went back home and tried to carry on as normal as we possibly could whilst we waited for the results. All my family and friends were very supportive. Then, on 25 March 2008, Dad received a phone call from ROH, they confirmed that I had osteosarcoma.
After that, everything happened pretty fast. Later that week I was referred to Professor Ian Lewis at St James Hospital, Leeds. Professor Lewis explained about osteosarcoma and told us about the treatment I would have. He explained that I would have five cycles of chemotherapy and in between, I would go back to ROH for surgery to remove the tumour and diseased bone and hopefully replace it with a prosthetic bone.
At the beginning of April 2008, I was admitted to the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) Unit at St James Hospital, Leeds to commence my first cycle of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy treatment was intensive and gruelling. I found the best way to cope was to try and sleep my way through it. The staff on the TCT ward were so caring and helpful and when I wasn't sleeping, the activities in the dayroom kept me focused.
Then, on Friday 13 June 2008, Professor Lewis told me that the tumour was very close to my knee and was entwined with muscle, nerves and blood vessels. This meant that ROH could not guarantee that they could remove the entire tumour and that my leg may be useless to me because of muscle loss and nerve damage. That was when I made the decision to have my leg amputated above the knee. I just wanted to be rid of the cancer.
We travelled back to ROH and on the morning of 19 June 2008, I saw my left leg for the last time, but hopefully, I was rid of the cancer. A week later, I was discharged back home and much to the amazement of my Mum and Dad, I announced that I wanted to go to my Year 11 prom night. Later that week, I went to my prom night in my wheelchair wearing a shirt and jeans for comfort. I just wanted to be normal and do what my friends were doing. We had a great night.
That weekend I began chemotherapy again and then Professor Lewis told me that 95% of the tumour had been killed. Great news! I was put forward for the EURAMOS Trial where I would have weekly injections of Interferon for 17 months after my planned treatment.
I carried on with my 6th form studies at college, taking BTEC Sport and IT. The chemotherapy treatment continued. The chemotherapy wasn't a walk in the park but I just had to grin and bear it. I also went to Seacroft Hospital, Leeds to be fitted with a prosthetic leg and I started the rehabilitation process. At first, I hated my new leg, but with the help of Lynn, my physiotherapist, I pushed myself to wear it and I learned to walk again. I had always been fit and healthy, so to improve my fitness levels, I also went to TOPS, my local gym and rehabilitation centre. My friends at the gym were a great help and they all rallied round and fully supported me.
On 7 November 2008, my planned treatment ended and I started the weekly injections of Interferon. On the same day, Professor Lewis informed me that I had nodules in my lungs that had calcified and needed to be removed. The cancer had spread.
I was referred to Mr Papas, Thoracic Surgeon and in January 2009, I had a thoracotomy to remove nodules from my left lung. Then, in March 2009, I had surgery to my right lung. The histology came back and the nodules were 100% dead. That was good news; the bad news was that I still had a nodule in my left lung which would need to be removed.
I carried on with my studies and I also continued with my physiotherapy, focusing on my rehabilitation. I think it helps to focus on something and set yourself goals. I also began taking driving lessons. I wanted to be able to drive and gain some independence back.
In October 2009, I had the nodule removed from my left lung. I carried on with my driving lessons and in December 2009, I passed my driving test first time! That gave me so much freedom. I no longer had to rely on Mum, Dad or Grandad to take me everywhere. Fantastic!
In the New Year, I decided I needed something else to focus on to give me back the strength and ambition that I used to feel. So, in March 2010, I joined my local wheelchair basketball team, the 'Wakefield Whirlwinds'. I felt it was important to not let myself down after having a life threatening illness and to find a sport I could do. I loved wheelchair basketball straight away and threw myself into it.
Finally, the weekly injections of Interferon finished and I had end of treatment scans. Then, on 9 June 2010 a bombshell dropped. The end of treatment scans showed some abnormalities. It felt like a black cloud had descended again but we still hoped that something could be done. Professor Lewis told me that there was a tumour in my left lung and he referred me back to Mr Papas for Thoracic surgery again.
When I saw Mr Papas, I told him that we had a holiday booked for the end of July 2010 and asked if we would still be able to go. We were due to go see family in Canada for a much needed holiday. Mr Papas said he would see what he could do and booked me in for surgery the very next week. The surgery was successful and Mr Papas and Professor Lewis gave me the go ahead to travel. Mr Papas provided me with Heparin Injections and I had to wear a pressure sock for the journey. I looked a right bobby dazzler! We had a fantastic time on holiday. Just what the Doctor ordered!
We returned from Canada and I found out that I had passed my A levels. The time didn't feel right for me to go to University, so I carried on playing basketball and became a coaching assistant for the Yorkshire U15's Wheelchair Basketball Team. Being involved in basketball gave me back that drive.
In December 2010, I gained an Apprenticeship in Business Administration at a Medical Company. I was earning whilst I was learning and also gaining further qualifications and experience. It also allowed me to carry on with my basketball in the evening and at the weekends and also to continue training with my good friends at the gym.
Throughout 2011 I continued to work, play wheelchair basketball and go to the gym. It was good to have something to work towards. I think the gym and basketball has helped me both physically and emotionally. It is good to surround yourself with positive people.
During a coaching session for the Yorkshire U15's Team, I was invited to attend a Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Training Camp in April 2012. The training was tough and the standard high. I attended further training camps and then I received the good news that I had been selected to play for Team GB in the Under 22's European Championships to be held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in July 2012.