I was just 22 years old and had recently started turning out for a Sunday morning football kick about after a long period of no exercise. I started to get a few aches in the right knee and doctors had assumed it was cartilage or knee strain from the lack of exercise. I was however beginning to limp as it had become painful.
The x-rayed leg immediately revealed some abnormality and doctors suspected it was a tumour. I was in the dark for a few days then told I would have to have my leg amputated to save my life. A biopsy was performed plus bone scans and two weeks later and a day before the scheduled surgery I was told it was Ewing Sarcoma and they had decided not to amputate. I still don't know to this day why they reversed the decision, probably because it was only in the leg. I was transferred to a local cancer hospital in Sheffield and was placed on traction and began five weeks of radiotherapy treatment to the right thigh. After two months traction my leg was immobilised and encased in a moulded plastic brace which I could remove for baths and sleeping. It also had a knee hinge so I could bend the leg for sitting. After four months in hospital I began the gruelling two-year course of chemotherapy, 24 courses 1 per month. This was by far the hardest part of the whole treatment and I hated it. I somehow got through that but it was very tough towards the end but with the support of a great family I did it. The nursing staff were amazing and very supportive - it was a great day when that treatment ended.
Two years later and on crutches I still had a right leg fracture in the brace which was clearly never going to heal. This coincided with a recent change of my orthopedic surgeon. He told me he knew of this doctor in Birmingham who was pioneering the salvage of limbs affected by cancer by replacing the diseased bone with a metal implant. Two years from diagnosis it appeared the cancer was beaten but the leg would never be good enough to walk on and I risked amputation again. The surgeon in Birmingham was Rodney Sneath, a man who was to change mine and my family's life forever and a person I will be eternally grateful to. We immediately bonded when I found out he had lived near my home in Sheffield and I felt reassured in his capable hands when he told me I would walk again.
In 1982 I had my first surgery when the lower 2/3rds of the femur and knee joint was replaced with a titanium prosthesis. Three weeks later I left hospital on crutches after a successful operation and returned 6 weeks later for a week's intensive physiotherapy. On the 2nd day I walked on my leg for the first time in 2 years which I was told was extremely fast progress. It felt amazing to walk again. I left hospital with a walking stick which I used for a few weeks longer. However, due to my leg having been broken for two years I had significant shortening that could not be restored. A wedge in my shoe and a small raise on the heel of most shoes compensated the loss and I was walking pretty well with only a slight limp.
All was fine for four years until one day back at work I felt unwell and went home. It was like a fever and my leg began to ache and swelled up and looked pink around the knee. After a few days I was admitted to hospital and it transpired my leg and prosthesis was infected but we had no idea how it happened. It was developing into sepsis and surgeons wanted to amputate again to save my life. I resisted and they inserted 2 drain tubes into the knee and pumped regular antibiotics into the knee to flush out the bacteria. I still wasn't happy with events at the Sheffield hospital and asked to be moved back to the ROH in Birmingham and they agreed. Birmingham continued the antibiotic treatment and thankfully a few weeks later it was felt the infection had incredibly been beaten. However, it had been septic arthritis in the remaining femur head and the prosthesis had moved as the bone had softened. I now had a very achy hip and had to walk with a stick as my leg was very weak.
Two years later in 1989 after more trials Birmingham ROH said they could now replace the old prosthesis with a new and secure one. Despite many problems and concerns about the strength of the remaining bone the new prosthesis held and four months later I returned to work having learnt to walk again. I no longer needed the stick and this was successful for another 10 years.
Years later following a tumble over my two year- old daughter on holiday, my 2nd prosthesis loosened and after a period of time it was decided to replace it again. The prosthesis had advanced greatly in 20 years and in 1999 I had a new one with lots of new features like a rotating knee joint and a big fixing bolt through the side into the hip. This has been a great success and to date it has been in place for 14 years and hopefully with all the new features will be good for many years to come.
In 2015 I will celebrate 25 years of happy marriage and I have two fantastic children who are both at university. Due to work changes I took early retirement in 2013 at 55 but having managed 30+ year's work in a good career since this began I think I did pretty well. I retired early but thanks to the amazing work of many individuals I can look forward to a retirement of enjoyment when once upon a time that had looked impossible. I'm now looking at opportunities to give something back to the amazing people and organisations that have helped me over the years, I can't thank them enough.
There's no denying these events change your life forever but they can be overcome with the support of good family and friends. So never give up, be strong and positive, fantastic results can be achieved, look at me, at 56 I'm a 34-year survivor with an awful lot to be thankful for.