In 2016 Luci's life was about to change. Luci shares her incredible story and how she has found beauty out of this horrible situation.
Hi, my name is Lucianna Lambert and this is my story about my battle with bone cancer...
I was your average ten-year-old girl who loved sports, playing with friends, family camping holidays, singing and being a kid. I had been experiencing an uncomfortable pain in my right shin for some time, but never knew why it might be hurting and ultimately, we decided it must be growing pains. It was when a lump appeared some months later that my Mum decided to take me to get it looked at.
I was eventually sent to the Nuffield Orthopaedic centre in Oxford, where they told me I had 'Osteofibrous Dysplasia'- a benign tumour in my shin bone. They planned to operate using a 'Lizanarov frame', but after they had taken a biopsy, I was in such discomfort from day to day, with the pain worsening. They decided to rethink the options, in theory the Osteofibrous Dysplasia should not be painful, why was I in so much discomfort?
By now I had been missing out on all sports, PE lessons, and was living in daily pain.
This is when they referred me to a psychologist and I was put on a two-week intensive 'Pain Course' where I stayed in a hotel nearby the hospital. They wanted to teach me how to not be oversensitive to what I was feeling, and help me to live with it better. After these two weeks, the pain increased, the daily exercise and stretching and use of the leg only seemed to agitate it more.
A year passed and at this point, I had a repeat scan. It was apparent that the tumour had grown from 10cm to 14cm. This was not good and I was told surgery was necessary, and promptly. The growth was too big at this point for the Ilizarov frame we had previously discussed. So, November 8th, 2016 at the age of 13 I went in for a shin removal and fibula bone graft. At 7 am, they started with removing what was now, 16 cm of my tibia. They replaced it with my fibula from my left leg by breaking it in half and screwing each piece next to each other in the gap. This surgery took place at The John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford and I was operated on the amazing paediatric orthopaedic consultant Mr Wainwright and equally brilliant plastic surgeon Dr Giele. I was in theatre for a long thirteen hours, whilst my Mum patiently waited.
After waking up from surgery I was taken through to intensive care which was very daunting. I was in there for a total of five days and I can honestly tell you it was the worst experience of my life, the drains and cannulas were everywhere, but I was treated by amazing nurses and doctors who took very good care of me. I then moved to the ward and I was so relieved because it felt a little more normal, other than the nasty bed sores on my back. When I first saw my leg It was scary, it really did look like it had been battered with a baseball bat, a lot bruising and blood. A further week passed, and I was on my way home.
The biopsy results from this surgery then confirmed that the growth was in fact adamantinoma. The team looking after me then understood why my pain was so severe for so long, they were apologetic, but of course had only done their best all along. I couldn't fault the treatment I was given in hospital. I was just glad to have answers, and finally a fresh start ahead of me, without this nasty growth holding me back.
I was in a wheelchair and attending regular appointments for the next seven months and gradually was able to put weight through it again, I was very close to fully weight bearing when I had an unfortunate incident at school. My friend fell onto my leg which broke the bone graft, this was devastating and it meant I had to go back into cast and it was another couple of months before I would be able to start walking again. Those months went by and I was finally given the news I had been waiting for so long! Safe to say I rang everyone with the exciting news. And I left the hospital walking, unaided.
Being unable to use my legs really made me appreciate them so much more, with time they both got stronger and stronger and I was the happiest I had been in years. I even ran in PE for the first time since I was 10.
Unfortunately, the pain then started creeping back in, this time in my knee. Sports stopped, and some days I could not even weight bare. The investigations started once again and some appointments later, I was told the metal had shifted and was pushing against my knee cap. This surgery was once brushed over in conversation a long time back, metal removal might be needed but not for many years and can often be left in, so i was not expecting it. October 8th, 2018, all metalwork was removed apart from one stubborn large screw, which should not be an issue. In fact, the digging around for this screw was thought to be more of a risk than just leaving it there. Recovery yet again was slow, healing did not really seem to come, I was now at college and still limping around with difficulty. I still was not able to walk to the bus stop like a regular teenager did! A year passed; the pain worsened. I had physio, but in time the physio said it was very clear that the pain was coming from a small, and specific area. Right where the screw was. So, within weeks, the consultant agreed and on January 6th, 2020 I went back into surgery to have that removed.
This was the longest 7 years of my life; would this really be the last surgery?
Within just 6 weeks I began walking again! I am all clear from the cancer and pain free for the first time since I can remember, it's been a very long journey, but I am so thankful for the amazing NHS and the support I experienced along the way. I no longer have a 'bad leg' anymore, it's just a leg. On February 19th, 2020 I was discharged from the Nuffield Orthopaedic centre and it was a feeling like no other, since then I have been running, cycling, doing all the things I used to love. Just going out with my friends is now enjoyable again. I feel like me, but so much stronger than I ever thought I was. I have chest X-rays every 6 months to be sure it doesn't come back but I have faith that it won't.
Some beautiful things came out of this horrible situation, I appreciate everyday pain free so much, as I know that not all have that privilege. I appreciate just having my legs still as I know not all have that privilege either.
The 7 years were gruelling, but knowing that some have this going on for longer put things into perspective. I spent these 7 years in recovery playing music. When bed bound one thing you can still do is sing and play guitar! Even in hospital I sat singing, it was something I fell in love with and I now do gigs whenever I can wherever I can. I would not have developed the skills and passion I have without that time bed ridden. It might not have been your average childhood, but I can proudly say that I am a Bone Cancer Survivor.
To anyone out there going through this, I know it feels like it's never going to end. I know it feels like it's never going to get easier, that you will never get to the point that I have. Believe me I know, because I never thought it was possible either. Your journey might be shorter or it might be longer, but you will get there! Things will get easier! STAY STRONG.