Theresa, Joseph's mother, shares his story
Joseph had boundless energy and was hardly ever ill so when he returned from his school trip at the end of May 2002 with a painful swollen leg we thought that he had hurt it during a climbing exercise or something like that.
At our local A&E department, we were shocked to see on an X ray that his leg had almost broken. Then a consultant at the hospital told us that the break was caused by an abnormality in Joseph's right femur and that it could be bone cancer. A few weeks later Joe was diagnosed with osteosarcoma after a biopsy at the Stanmore RNOH Middlesex.
After his diagnosis, Joseph's surgeon told myself and my husband, Malcolm, that Joseph would need two cycles of chemotherapy at The Middlesex Hospital in Central London followed by a limb-sparing operation at Stanmore in which a titanium prosthesis was to replace his right femur followed by three more cycles of chemotherapy to remove any remaining cancer cells.
Joe had his operation at Stanmore Hospital the day before his 12th birthday and the consultant joked that he was giving him a new leg for his birthday!! The operation went well and we were optimistic about the outcome. We concentrated on exercises to help Joe use his 'new' leg and maximise his chances of a good recovery. When Joe had recovered sufficiently to travel to the Middlesex Hospital he started on the third stage of his treatment, more chemotherapy. Joe's consultant decided that, as his first chemotherapy was affecting his heart, they would give him an alternative one. We were told that this was the only treatment left that they could offer our son.
It was beginning to sink in that Joseph might not make it?.. a lot of the other patients were having 'leaving' parties after their successful treatments. I felt a sinking feeling.
Joseph was at home for Christmas although he had a line infection and was hospitalised right up until Christmas Eve. Still, he was at home and that was all that mattered. One of his presents was an electronic keyboard which he loved to play.
Eventually, in February 2003, we were told that there was little that they could do for Joseph at The Middlesex Hospital. Apparently, Joseph's cancer was very aggressive and had now spread to his other limbs and his lungs. It was suggested to us that we needed 'time out' together as a family. We booked a holiday in southern France so that we could spend time with my brother Brendan and his son Shannon. The five of us had a wonderful holiday which we will always remember. Joe had a fantastic time, he even drove a speedboat! It was important for Joe's sisters to have time with him away from the hospital environment and it helped him tremendously. One day, just before we left for England we visited the beach and Joe wheeled himself down a slope straight onto the beach, before we could stop him he had pitched himself almost out of the wheel-chair and onto the beach!! It was typical Joseph, he never gave up and there is no worse sight than seeing your child without the freedom of movement with which he was born.
After we arrived home Joe decided to go back to school and this was a great surprise and although he went back part-time it was great to see him in his uniform again! I know it meant a lot to his teachers and his friends to see him again. Unfortunately, after a few weeks he had to leave school and was nursed at home. Joseph's dad went out and bought him the latest Harry Potter book and he read the first few chapters and he would not let us read it to him! It is still on the shelf where he put it.
Joe's hobbies included his X Box games; learning to play golf; playing the trumpet and guitar; football and hockey. He was also very artistic and created some very good cartoons and short 'movies' of magic tricks using whatever was handy at the time! Joe also got his sister to film him 'running' down the slope of our local country park in his wheelchair at breakneck speed!
Towards the end of Joe's life he had to have oxygen delivered to the house by our local chemist for which we were very grateful. It was a very upsetting time for the whole family. During this time I was trying to shield Joe from the inevitable progress of his illness as I didn't want to worry him or cause him any more distress. Being a clever boy I think that he eventually worked it out for himself and, of course, he was very scared of dying.
Joseph Edward Thompson died at 4am on 26th June 2003. RIP.
Now, it was our turn to suffer. At first I felt very angry, angry towards the medical establishment because they seemed so inactive and unwilling to try new ideas and also at the government for not putting more money into research into osteosarcoma. I couldn't believe that this could happen in this country. However, when I had realised that Joe was going to die I had made a promise to myself to do everything I could to help with research into this awful cancer and that I would do it in his name.
At Joseph's funeral I felt numb and almost like I was a bystander, I just wanted the comfort of his voice and his presence, at least while he was alive there was something I could do, now what? People rallied around and we had a lot of support from friends and family.
I had decided that if Joseph died I would do everything possible to help promote interest in osteosarcoma research and that is what I plan to do. I aim to do this in his name, in his memory.
Joseph's life was cut short cruelly by bone cancer and he wanted to become a Rally Driver. Surely with all the advances in scientific research someone will find a cure for bone cancer one day. I will never forget my son's bravery and courage in his fight against osteosarcoma. His story deserves to be told.