Christopher's father Paul shares his son's story
Before the appointment came, one morning my wife banged his arm accidentally and Chris was in such extreme pain so we took him to A&E. There they took an x-ray, then a chest x-ray then they kept him in overnight. At this time we were so naive never imagining what was in store for us all.
The next morning the consultant said, things look bad - go to Birmingham ROH - we took the x-ray plates home with us and Chris asked one of his friends who was a radiologist what his opinion was without saying they were his films - probably osteosarcoma came the reply.
This obviously devastated our lives, ROH did a biposy to confim; his humerous was totally full of cancer and it had so weakened the bone so much it had totally snapped - no wonder he was in pain! The CT scan of his chest showed lung metastases, not large but there all the same. We endured all the usual stuff - Hickman line, chemo, surgery, more surgery, more chemo, 9 nights of hell with ecoli and c-diff together, physio then - all clear you're in remission.
Eighteen months passed, Chris had kept his arm but with greatly reduced mobility in it - all the way through he never complained, his doggedness and acceptance was amazing to everyone. The diagnosis was just after he'd started in the sixth form and he tried but couldn't carry on and so had to skip a year at school.
In February 2007, blisfully unaware of any problems and thinking he was fine he went to Germany playing cards, when he came back he said his right leg hurt, also he'd noticed a lump on his left shoulder - back to Birimingham where the consultant did an immediate biopsy. The results of this coupled with more bone scans, CT and MRI were of course terrible - tumours in the arm, lungs and lower spine.
Chris then underwent a gruelling 6 months of chemo again and with the usual severe life threatening infections - slightly different drugs this time and took some A levels in hospital. Despite missing so much he still managed Maths, Further maths and Physics at A level. After the chemo the surgeon told him to prepare for losing his arm, but, the chemo had been so good that he could just remove the lump. This sounded great but the microscope gave the bad news, yes the tumour had shrunk but what was left was alive and kicking. The prognosis given a few days later was terminal - Chris took this incredibly well.
He had two choices, sink into depression or carry on - somehow, as with so many of these brave young adults he carried on. He was accepted at Warwick University to study Maths and Statistics and went there one week after having the operation on his arm - he went with his arm in a sling and the staples still in place. Towards the end of the first term he had to endure 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy to try and halt the spinal tumour which was causing him problems walking and standing.
Chris managed 2 terms at Warwick Uni and had 2 full cycles of radiotherapy. As osteosarcoma is radiation resistant it didn't work very well and as the tumour kept growing it started causing more and more problems. Chris decided to leave Uni at Easter and his consultant supported him to travel as much as he could.
Getting him insurance proved impossible and despite our concerns Chris decided to go anyway. His consultant kept in e-mail contact and off he went in early May 2009.
Chris was a dedicated card player and also was top level at a very complex game called 'Magic: The Gathering', his plans took him to Paris where he stayed with a friend then onto Monte Carlo where he played in the European Poker Tour grand final. Despite being on enough morphine to knock out an elephant he played for 4 full long days, most normal people would have had problems playing for one day.
Then it was onto Amsterdam for a few days then various places around the USA including Hawaii. Chris then spent a few weeks with friends in San Diego before returning to the UK in July.
When I fetched him from Heathrow it had obviously been a struggle to walk across the terminal and he slept for 2 days afterwards.
Chris's walking was becoming more difficult and his hopes were on some different chemo drugs his consultant had some hopes for - unfortunately the local PCT refused to fund them. This delay and subsequent referral to Sheffield meant that the tumour grew enough to knock Chris totally off his feet and confine him to bed.
Eventually Chris was ambulanced to Sheffield and they agreed to treat him - he had a full cycle but ended up staying over a week at Sheffield (In the TCT unit there which was such a refreshing change to the Nottingham adult wards). Whilst there they eventually realised his thirst and lack of concentration was due to steroid induced diabetes - his blood sugar was off the scale, so to cap it all he now needed to be on insulin.
Eventually Chris got home and spent just 2 days in his own room. Late on Thursday we thought he looked pale, the on-call doctor thought he had a slight chest infection - no kidding! We had to call an ambulance around 10pm which took him into Nottingham emergency unit. He seemed to be fine and they started IV antibiotics and arranged for a chest X-ray. Through the night he got worse, his pulse was racing, oxygen levels low and the X-ray showed pneumonia and no reduction of the lung tumours.
At 10am his consultant came in and offered Chris intubation in HDU or morphine as he told him he didn't think anyone could survive the pneumonia that he'd developed even if they didn't have cancer.
Chris chose the morphine and over the next two hours he slowly slipped away, dying just before noon on the 11th September. This was just 8 days before his 21st so we arranged for the funeral to be held on his birthday.
As Chris was an atheist we had a humanist service and a custom made coffin depicting his interests, 90 people turned up and the service was very special for everyone. The messages left by his friends on Facebook were amazing, one internet writer who hardly knew him described Chris as an 'urban legend'.
We're now having to try and carry on without him, the waste and loss to not only us but society as a whole, is unbearable.