Below she shares her story to help others facing a similar diagnosis.

For a few weeks before I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I had been feeling tired and had experienced dizzy spells. I went to the GP about these symptoms and was dismissed.

Shortly afterwards, in March 1980, I was visiting my family in Poole and had gone out for lunch with my dad. I was trying to eat and my jaw locked and I was unable to open my mouth.

I found out later that my jaw had fractured, but at the time I thought it was just sore.

I was working in a nursing home in Birmingham and living in nurses' accommodation when I was referred to the hospital by the GP who saw me whilst carrying out his rounds at the home. Two days later I had an angiogram under anaesthetic in Birmingham, and a few days after the angiogram my dad picked me up to take me back home to Poole. The angiogram was on the Thursday and my dad picked me up the following Saturday.

The results of the angiogram showed a mass. I went back to Salisbury hospital on the Monday after I came home, and I was told that I would be having surgery the next day to remove the tumour. The surgeon in Birmingham was unable to do the surgery as he was going on holiday, but I was glad to be having surgery nearer to home as I needed my family's support.

I had little or no time to prepare myself mentally for surgery or to process my cancer diagnosis. It all happened so fast.

My surgery was extensive. I had the right-hand side of my jaw (including the joint), my right cheekbone (zygomatic arch), and the muscles of my cheek removed. The surgeon had previously had a patient die from the effects of powerful painkillers after a similar surgery, due to difficulties with the airway, so I was given NO painkillers for the first five days.

The surgeon told me that as my nerves were cut I wouldn't be in any pain. I certainly was!

Surgery was the only treatment I had. I was not given chemotherapy, which I now know is part of the standard treatment for osteosarcoma.

I was in hospital for around one week following the surgery, then I went home to my parents' house. For the first year I went back to hospital for follow up appointments twice per month.

I have had a lot of reconstructive surgery over the years and at least 11/12 operations, one of which involved having my cheekbone reconstructed using my rib and muscles taken from my back.

I have been left with facial paralysis and can only eat soft foods.

When I first had my surgery and before my reconstructive surgery my face was disfigured, which was very difficult to cope with, especially as I was so young. It was also hard because of the facial paralysis. Now I have learnt to live with the stares and with people treating me as if I'm unintelligent.

I worked as a nurse and at one time worked on a children's plastic surgery ward in Salisbury. My experiences helped me empathise with patients and their families.

I became involved with a group at the hospital run by the charity Let's Face It, and through that group I met my husband.

My friends and family, especially my mum, have been a great source of comfort and strength. The only time I had counselling was after my mum died, as she was always such a great support for me, and I felt lost without her.

I have recently been treated for breast cancer and I am currently taking a trial drug. Throughout all my treatment I have remained positive, always listened to medical advice, and have asked questions. My advice to others would be to do the same.

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