In October of 2014, I was cycling out in the Peak District between Cromford and Parsley Hay on the High Peak Trail. It was a cold, wet and windy day, perfect for testing out my new winter cycling gear. After around 12 miles cycling, I was approaching Parsley Hay and was passing through an old cutting, as I transitioned from the relative shelter of the cutting to the open trail a strong gust of wind picked me up and threw me down onto the floor a good 6 feet away from where I started. I picked myself up, got back on the bike and carried on to Parsley Hay, had a bite to eat and then made the return journey to Cromford. I thought nothing of the fall.
Within a week, I was in A&E with siginifcant pain in my left hip. As I'd landed on my right side when I fell of the bike the week before, the doctors thought I'd simply stretched or strained some ligaments in the fall and the pain I was feeling was related to that.
Because there was no other obvious reason for the pain, I carried on as normal and for the most part, I was pain free.
By December 2014, the pain hadn't completely disappeared and I started to show signs of extreme fatigue. I was falling asleep in the day and I was also in pain at night. In the following weeks, my GP ordered an Ultra-sound, X-rays and finally, in early March, a CT scan. Whilst the X-ray and CT scan were only weeks apart and the X-ray was completely clear, the CT scan was done in early March 2015 and showed that I had an extremely large tumour in my pelvis.
From that point on, the NHS went into overdrive for me and I was whisked down to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore where I had a biopsy (and got my first tattoo to mark where the biopsy had been) which revealed I had a Mesenchymal Chondrosarcoma. By early April 2015, I had my diagnosis and by late April, I had started my chemotherapy treatment which consisted of three drip bags containing Cisplatin, Doxorubicin and Saline.
The chemotherapy was administered at the Leicester Royal Infirmary through a Hickman line on a three week cycle and my final treatment was on the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2015. I then had seven weeks to recuperate from the chemotherapy before I had surgery at the RNOH in Stanmore.
The day after the hickman line was fitted, the nurse came to change the dressing. On seeing the line coming out of my chest, my body dumped a load of adrenaline and my blood pressure dropped dangerously low the nurse was on the verge of calling an ambulance but I gathered my thoughts and got control of my reaction.
First chemotherapy aftermath, I felt like I was going to die. Then there was the life changing surgery to face.
On the 19th of October 2015, I underwent a full internal hemipelvectomy where the left half of my pelvis was removed to remove the sarcoma in full. I then spent six weeks at Stanmore recovering from my surgery.
After one month, I had an X-ray to see how my surgery had settled and it looked like this...
After surgery, I spent many weeks with occupational and physiotherapists helping me to get back on my feet again. It was a long haul but I progressed from a pulpit walking frame to a standard walking frame, then onto crutches and finally after two years, only walking sticks.
As with any cancer, my follow up treatment is quite regular and I have X-rays taken every few months to monitor my progress. After two and a half years, my hip had migrated just over 5cm from its initial position.
Since the X-ray above was taken, my hip seems to have finally settled at around 8cm from its original starting position, although it's only moved about 1.5cm further up, it's also moved about 1.5cm further inwards towards my sacrum thereby giving a 3cm difference to my shoe raises.
As you can see from the X-rays, there is no large prosthetic to stabilise the hip. Instead, my leg is attached using some strapping, screws and scar tissue. It works surprisingly well.
I've always had my own sense of internal strength, I don't rely on anyone or anything else for my own mental health.
My advice to others would be to take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. Drink plenty of water and stem ginger really helps with nausea better than the steroids.
If I had been diagnosed earlier, I would have had a much easier life now. It's likely I wouldn't have required an internal hemipelvectomy. So it's crucial to raise awareness about these forms of cancer in the hope for earlier diagnosis and potential better outcomes.
Life now is good. I walk around on crutches or using a walking stick with a boost on my left shoe. I drive an automatic but otherwise standard car and when we're not in lockdown, I work a 40-hour week as a Software Engineer at different locations as I'm a contractor. My bike has moved into the house from the garage for the winter and I still ride it daily, although not for as long as I would like. The migration of my leg means that the femur now impacts on the seat on the downstroke on my left leg so I end up with a big sensitive bruise on the back of my thigh if I cycle too much (I need to buy a narrower saddle).