I had been getting pain in my right knee when I was climbing stairs or kneeling down, but for a few months I had just put it down to being unfit. I started going to the gym on a regular basis and the pain seemed to be getting worse. It was on one of my regular visits to the gym that my cancer journey began.
I was exercising and went to get onto the bike when I swung my leg up and something sounded like it went snap, I then couldn't move. The instructors helped me off and put some ice onto my knee. They said that they thought that I had strained a muscle and that I should go home and elevate it. My (then) boyfriend Tony (now husband) came to pick me up and took me home.
I went to bed with my leg elevated and lots of painkillers. The next morning when I went to get up I fell straight down again and couldn't put any weight on my leg. Tony took me to the hospital where I was examined and I was once again told that I had sprained it. It was quiet in A and E so the doctor said "well we might as well x-ray you just to be sure".
10 minutes later I noticed several doctors senior and junior looking at what appeared to be my x-ray. The doctor came and explained to me that there was a golf ball sized mass on my femur bone and that it had fractured my femur right down the middle, he said that he thought that it was a Bakers Cyst. I would need to have a biopsy done though at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH). At this point it didn't even register that they were looking for the 'big C' as I had not even heard of bone cancer!
I had my biopsy and a two week wait. Two weeks later we hadn't heard anything back so my mum rang them to find out what was happening. We went to McDonalds and it was there that my life changed. Mum received a phone call back saying that I needed to come into RNOH first thing tomorrow morning. I then knew that it was not going to be good news.
The next day my mum, Tony and I were sitting in front of Professor Briggs being told that I had an osteosarcoma and that it was very rare for someone of my age to have it. I was told that I would need to undertake six cycles of chemotherapy and that I would probably lose my leg. I asked "will I die?", Professor Briggs replied "I don't know yet". I then asked "will I lose my hair?", he replied "yes definitely". It was only then that it hit me and I burst into tears. My leg was plastered from ankle to hip, this was to stop the jagged edge of the broken bone piercing the tumour which would cause it to leak into my blood stream and accelerate the cancer taking hold.
Within two days I was admitted to The Middlesex Hospital in London being looked after by a wonderful man Mr Whelan.
I asked if I could freeze some eggs in case the chemo made me infertile and was told that there wasn't time and that treatment had to start immediately.
The chemo was so strong that they had to insert a Hickman line into my neck to run it through. The very first time the red and yellow liquids started to trickle into me I thought, "what am I doing to myself, who in their right mind would poison themselves with this disgusting liquid?"
But I had to accept that this was going to be my life for the next year if I wanted to have any chance at survival at all.
I spent close to six months in hospital with my leg in plaster. I got to go home some weekends but not many. It seemed that every time I came home that my white blood cell count would drop and I would be readmitted with neutropenia.
It was relatively early on in my treatment when I woke up to find hair on my pillow, I felt sick. I wanted to go into denial but this would show to the world that I had got cancer and that it was getting the better of me! I made the decision that I could not cope with waking up to that sight every morning so I would have all of my hair cut off. I had hair quite long down my back so, that day I went and had it cut short. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror from that point on. As the hair loss got worse I decided to have it all shaved off. I was in hospital at the time with another one of my neutropenia attacks. My hairdresser came to my room and shaved it off with my mum and Tony with me. I can honestly say that was probably the rawest moment of my whole treatment. I had cancer and now everybody could see that I was ill and there was nothing I could do about it. I had a wig made and wore that for about a month before I got fed up with it and decided just to use a bandana when I was out and embrace being bald whilst in hospital. It made me laugh when people would say to me "isn't your head a lovely smooth shape" and "don't you look good bald"
I was supposed to be going to Tony's brother's wedding in Finland and I was so looking forward to it. Mr Whelan came to tell me that I would not be able to go as I was too sick to fly. I was beyond devastated and started to really resent the cancer for stopping me from doing the things in my life that I wanted to.
One night I was having one of my many drugs and the nurse came and gave it to me. She returned 10 minutes later in a panic saying that she had inserted a fast acting drug straight into my blood stream instead of the slow release. She said that she was waiting to hear back from the National Poisons helpline as to what could happen to me. She asked me if I wanted to call Tony or my mum to be with me. I remember asking her that question that seemed to keep coming up "am I going to die?" She said "you could, yes"
I remember feeling numb but thinking, oh well, if I wake up in the morning then great, if not so be it!
Cancer makes you very matter of fact in your thinking. I think that it is your minds way of coping and making sense of things that you have no control of.
I did wake up in the morning and had no side effects of the drug to everyone's relief especially the poor nurse who also had one of the worst nights of her life.
About six months in the time came for the scan to see if the tumour was small enough to be operated on, it was.
I was transferred to the RNOH. Professor Briggs showed me a titanium prosthesis which he had worked on and won an award for. He suggested that we could try and insert one of these instead of a full amputation. I looked at this piece of metal in front of me and thought, what have I got to lose!!
I went into the operating theatre not knowing if I would come out with no leg or this alien piece of metal pretending to be a leg. I know that I had full faith in Professor Briggs though and knew he would do what would give me the best chance of survival.
I woke up in my hospital bed, I tried to wiggle my toes to feel if they were still there but the pain was unbearable so, I gained the courage from somewhere to look under the covers. I could see a whole load of bandages but also something that looked like a leg, he had done it, this piece of titanium was now firmly implanted in my leg. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
I spent a few weeks at the RNOH on various machines to try and bend my leg to a 90 degree angle. When they were happy that I was achieving this, I got taken to the walking bars for my first attempt at walking. As I got out of my wheelchair I realised that I couldn't actually feel my leg, let alone walk on it. Somehow the grit and determination just kicked in. I had been given a special gift as not everyone can have this Massive Distal Femoral Replacement and I wasn't going to waste it. I remember seeing images on the TV of people learning to walk again and it felt quite surreal that now it was actually me!
The first time that I walked, I felt such a mixture of emotion - emotions that I was not even expecting. I was proud, angry, hurt and numb all at the same time.
I did not have time to think for long as I returned to The Middlesex now wheelchair bound, to continue my chemo.
I remember going to Tonys' graduation ceremony. 15 stone (due to steroids and a desire to stuff my face with chocolate, when I wasn't feeling sick) wig, in a wheelchair, I felt so ashamed of how I looked that I cannot still to this day look at those photos.
The chemotherapy was taking its toll on my body and unfortunately I contracted Clostridium Difficile (CDiff) one of the hospital bugs. It took hold of me pretty quickly as I had no immune system to fight it. I was immediately put into isolation and was told that some of my organs were shutting down. My family were called in to be with me. I remember looking at them around me and not being able to see them clearly as I was so dizzy and thinking, Sod this, I am not beating cancer and then being taken by a bloody hospital bug. The next day I started to improve, the nurses and Drs couldn't believe it, "this is amazing" was all they would say.
I was too poorly to have my last cycle of chemo but Mr Whelan was quite sure that it wouldn't be the difference between whether I beat it or not.
At the end of the treatment I felt like I didn't have any fight left in me yet the fighting had really only just started as I had to concentrate on walking again and unaided.
I went back a month later for a scan and chest x-ray and it was confirmed that it was gone, I was cancer free.
I would like to say that I felt elated but I just felt numb.
On 7 July 2007, I walked down the aisle unaided to marry my rock Tony who throughout this I would not have survived without. The love and support in the room from my mum, my family and Tony's family will be something that I will always keep with me. They were my strength.
On 12 June 2008 my healthy baby boy Kai was born.
On 14 July 2010 my second healthy son Finn was born.
I still have regular check-ups just to make sure that the nasty critter hasn't paid me another visit. I will always have to have follow-up operations on my leg, but, I am here stronger than ever. I will never regret going through everything that I did because I am a totally different person now for it. I'm not going to say that I wake up every morning and am glad to be alive but I do appreciate life and after seeing many friends pass on in my time in hospital. I know how precious life is and you have to face it head on no matter what it throws at you.