Guy's mother Ros shares his story

As Guy was growing up, he always enjoyed life to the full. With a wide circle of friends, he wanted to have a go at anything that was on offer and also worked hard to achieve academically. He was a keen sportsman with a good eye for the ball succeeding football, rugby, cricket and golf. Later he took great pride in his motor bikes and then cars. He had a wonderful sense of fun, playing practical jokes and holding fantastic themed fancy dress parties. Guy not only took on personal challenges but encouraged everyone around him to do the same particularly when it came to fund raising whilst he was in remission.

Phase 1. September 1996 to December 1997. The first tumour.

  • The sports injury - whilst playing hockey at the start of Guy's second year of A levels, aged 17. The painful left knee was initially thought to be a torn cartilage, so two arthroscopy operations were carried out with a lot of physiotherapy over five months whilst his knee became increasingly swollen and painful.
  • The X ray - which at last showed the tumour and led to a frenzy of activity including the diagnosis of osteosarcoma four days before his 18th birthday in February 1997.
  • Chemotherapy - six courses of intensive treatment at St. James's University Hospital, Leeds.
  • Operation at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham when amputation was narrowly avoided and a prosthesis inserted replacing a large section of his femur and tibia. Guy was home in a record 4 days and trying to perform acrobatics on his crutches! Two further courses of chemo and then an operation to remove metastases (secondary cancer) from his lungs.

Phase 2. January 1998 to November 2000. In remission for almost 3 years.

  • Back to school part-time to catch up with his second A level year, took the exams, went on to Teesside University in October 1998 to study for a degree in marketing, entering fully into student life. Guy's summer holiday work experience was in the office of a cancer charity and he began fund raising for research because he had been shocked that so little was known about osteosarcoma. He did a tandem parachute jump and abseiling off the Humber Bridge. The prosthesis in his leg was very successful. Guy only limped slightly when tired and anyway was determined that it would not restrict him from anything that he wanted to do. He had several holidays abroad with friends, drove rally cars, swapped the cricket of the past for golf and changed his motor bike for a car.

Phase 3. November 2000 to July 2001. The second tumour.

  • Stiff neck and headaches tumour in the top two vertebrae of his neck surrounding the brain stem.
  • Chemotherapy: 5 courses but harder than last time. Many and more extreme side effects but in true character, each time Guy felt a bit better he was off with his friends doing all the things that 20 year old students do! Supported through everything this time not only by his parents and sister but also by his long-term girl friend.
  • Operation - a pioneering operation in June 2001 at Leeds General Infirmary, described as 'historic surgery', replacing the top two vertebrae in his neck by inserting a specially designed cage. This included skin grafts from his arm to repair damaged tissue in his throat. In all, the operation took 16 hours, was very successful and the discoveries and expertise gained through carrying it out, have since been used around the world.

Phase 4. July 2001 to April 2002. In remission again.

  • A lot of healing to do after such a major operation which also included a tracheotomy, and re-learning to chew and swallow. The muscles in Guy's leg needed rebuilding following the time of reduced activity. In July he was just able to attend the wedding of close friends which had been an important target.
  • Returned to university in September determined to continue where he had left off on the third year of his course. Flew a helicopter and celebrated New Year swimming in Portugal on holiday with his close group of friends. In February he threw another of his amazing parties, to celebrate his 23rd birthday.

Phase 5. March to April 2002. The third tumour.

  • Attended interviews for post-graduate jobs and struggled to continue working on his final dissertation on charity marketing until a lump in the side of his neck made it too hard for him to continue.
  • His body could not take any more chemotherapy and he chose to be at home. In true Guy style he was not going to waste a moment. He became engaged to his girl friend, hired a stretch limo and went to an important match for the Middlesbrough team he supported. Guy did not quite complete his degree course but the University of Teesside awarded him a 2-1 honours degree based on the work he had done and he was thrilled to receive this news during his last week.
  • Although three months had been suggested, Guy died peacefully at home after 12 days with his family and close friends around him.

Guy was so strong and such an inspiration to everyone. He was extremely grateful for all that the medical teams had done for him, giving him the chance to enjoy an extra five and a half years of life. He felt it was essential that there should be research into osteosarcoma and started fundraising himself. His family and close friends promised him that this would be continued in his name - the Guy Francis Bone Cancer Research Fund.

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