Sarah's mother shares her story
My daughter Sarah was 11 years old when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right tibia, just below the knee joint.
It all started in February 2008 when we noticed that Sarah had developed a lump on her shin bone which started making her limp but only when she ran, and her leg hurt when she was swimming. She was an active child, swimming for a local swimming club and playing hockey every weekend. The lump was noticeable above her hockey shin pad, and felt warm to the touch. My husband suggested it should be seen by a doctor, and we were extremely lucky that our doctor had seen just one case of bone cancer in her surgery in the past - she recommended we had an X-ray straight away. The X-ray found a swelling in the bone, and an MRI was scheduled. While we were waiting for the appointment and results of the MRI, Sarah began waking at night with pain in her shin, and the limp was getting worse, so much so that she now had to walk with crutches.
We were referred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore for tests during the Easter holidays, where Sarah had scans and a needle biopsy of the affected bone -After being discharged, we got a telephone call the very next day asking us to attend clinic on Monday 7 April 2008. We were told the devastating news that Sarah had osteosarcoma.
Sarah started 4 months of chemotherapy at University College Hospital in London mid-April 2008. On 15 July, after a delay of a week for chronic mouth ulcers, she was admitted back to RNOH Stanmore for her operation to remove the affected bone and replace it with a titanium prosthesis and knee joint - she would now be the bionic woman!
She was in theatre for four hours and in intensive care for 36 hours after the operation as she had developed a temperature, where I slept on a plastic chair next to her bed! She was in hospital for 10 days and was allowed home for another four days before returning to UCH to begin another 5 months of chemotherapy to conclude her treatment at the end of November 2008.
Sarah was very sick, there were lots and lots of tears and tantrums, she of course lost her hair, she hated physiotherapy and hospital food, but she faced her illness and all her treatments with a strength that I still to this day cannot fathom coming from a young child of 11 years old.
She laughed with everyone - a lot - and even when she was at her most poorly, she made me smile with her good humour! She went to the hospital school every day she was an inpatient, and she made sure she went in to her own school on the days she wasn't in hospital (she was in year 6 when she was diagnosed and started secondary school in a wheelchair towards the end of her treatment), and she also continued to go to Girl Guides on Thursdays, sometimes being dropped there on the way home from the hospital after she was discharged each week! She was frightened of missing things and was determined not to be left out - her continued positivity pulled her through an enormously tough time in her young life, and we are extremely proud of her.
She is now a healthy, happy 17 year old, who achieved 11 GCSEs and is currently at college studying for her A levels. She wishes to be a primary school teacher and is planning on going to university to get her teaching degree.
Whilst going through treatment, I started a blog relating all of our experiences along the way from pre-surgery to remission, which can be read at www.sarahsleg.blogspot.com
I hope this gives some hope to those of you going through the same journey - there is life after cancer!