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Guildford teen discovers ‘pulled muscle’ was bone cancer

 

A teenager who thought she just had a pulled muscle now has a titanium rod for a thigh bone after being diagnosed with a rare cancer.

Faye Lucas, 19, put off going to the doctors for more than 12 months as she put her difficulty bending her leg down to a strain.

But the newly-qualified hairdresser, from Guildford, was horrified to be told that she had parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Devastated to learn she may have to lose her hair for chemotherapy, her world was turned upside down with the diagnosis.   

But to fight the disease, she underwent a pioneering four-hour operation to replace her left femur with the metal bone.

Having to learn how to walk all over again, she is now ‘grieving over the loss of her limb’ which she says doesn’t feel like hers.

Faye Lucas, 19, put off going to the doctors for more than 12 months as she put her difficulty bending her leg down to a strain

Faye Lucas, 19, put off going to the doctors for more than 12 months as she put her difficulty bending her leg down to a strain

Faye Lucas, 19, put off going to the doctors for more than 12 months as she put her difficulty bending her leg down to a strain

Miss Lucas said: ‘I couldn’t bend my knee properly but put off going to the doctors for about a year.

‘I’m quite a clumsy person. I thought I had just pulled a muscle at first so I presumed it would get better by itself, but after about a year I realised that it had just got worse.

‘It got to a certain point where my leg wouldn’t go any further, I started to compare it to my other leg as I could bend that one a lot easier and further.

‘I went to the doctors but I felt silly going just because I couldn’t bend my leg. When I got the diagnosis I was just in shock.

‘As soon as I went into the room and saw the nurse’s Macmillan name badge I already knew what the consultant would say.’

Shocking diagnosis 

Her parents were shocked at the diagnosis, considering that her mother, Janice, 51, had only just been given the clear from breast cancer a year ago.

She said her father, Paul, 54, was in ‘despair’ after being given the news almost straight after his wife battled the disease. 

Although still early into her recovery she has already started planning how to get back into the workplace with placing extra strain on her new ‘bone’.

But the newly-qualified hairdresser was horrified to be told she had parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer (pictured with her boyfriend of four years Herbie Elliot)

But the newly-qualified hairdresser was horrified to be told she had parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer (pictured with her boyfriend of four years Herbie Elliot)

But the newly-qualified hairdresser was horrified to be told she had parosteal osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer (pictured with her boyfriend of four years Herbie Elliot)

Miss Lucas said: ‘It’s not how I thought my life would be. Walking is really good for my leg but standing isn’t great, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to hairdressing.

‘I just want to see, I don’t want to get disappointed by hoping I can go back to it but then finding out I can’t.

‘My specialist suggested I could do it part time, or I could even get a job as a receptionist at a hair salon and just do the occasional client.

‘I’m 19 so I’ve got the rest of my life ahead of me – the possibilities are endless.’

Big challenges 

She added: ‘The biggest challenge is just the everyday things I used to take for granted, I find getting out of bed and standing is a really big struggle.

‘Also finding the energy to just motivate myself – as much as I want to get better it is hard.  

‘I think initially I was naive to how painful it would be. What shocked me is that you grieve over your leg, it doesn’t feel like yours anymore.

‘I just felt sad about it all, like I didn’t think you would be able to tell that the titanium replacement isn’t your own bone. I didn’t expect any of these feelings at all.’ 

Miss Lucas, who lives with mother and father, Paul, 54, decided to go to the doctors last December after realising she could no longer bend her left leg.

To fight the disease, she underwent a pioneering four-hour operation to replace her left femur with a titanium rod

To fight the disease, she underwent a pioneering four-hour operation to replace her left femur with a titanium rod

To fight the disease, she underwent a pioneering four-hour operation to replace her left femur with a titanium rod

Having to learn how to walk all over again, she is now 'grieving over the loss of her limb' which she says doesn't feel like hers

Having to learn how to walk all over again, she is now 'grieving over the loss of her limb' which she says doesn't feel like hers

Having to learn how to walk all over again, she is now ‘grieving over the loss of her limb’ which she says doesn’t feel like hers

Believing she had merely pulled a muscle, she was referred to a physiotherapist for three months – but it didn’t work. 

The 19-year-old went for an X-ray in January this year, followed by an MRI scan and then underwent a bone biopsy.

After the biopsy in March, she was dealt the news that she had the rare bone cancer and would need to undergo surgery.

Incredible support 

Now two months on, she has been reflecting on the incredible support she received from the staff at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex.

WHAT IS AN OSTEOSARCOMA?

Osteosarcoma is a rare type of sarcoma of the bone and is also called osteogenic sarcoma.

The most common type of bone cancer, it is found in growing bones and is usually diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.

It is slightly more common in men than women.

They are rare, with only around 530 new cases each year in the UK

It can affect any bone in the body but is most common in the arms and legs.

The cause of the cancer is unknown but it is thought to be related to rapid bone growth, such as adolescence. 

The most common symptom is pain, but the tumour can also cause swelling and tenderness.

It is sometimes diagnosed when a bone weakened by the cancer breaks during a minor accident. 

Osteosarcomas are treated by a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Surgery is a very important part of treatment and is used to remove the tumour in the bone.

Source: Macmillan Cancer Support

Miss Lucas, praising those who performed the surgery, said: ‘The staff at Stanmore were amazing, they had so much time for me.

‘When you’ve had your operation they get you up and standing, you can’t go home unless you can sit on a chair at a 90-degree angle. I was only in hospital for about 10 days which is really good.

‘They kept reminding me that these metal bones have got to be in me for the rest of my life so I have to take care of them.

‘I need to find the happy medium between keeping it moving and not moving it too much.’ 

Pillars of strength 

Miss Lucas said her family and boyfriend of four years, Herbie Elliot, had been pillars of strength during her diagnosis and treatment.

She said Herbie would take out her parents when they became upset to try and take their mind off the situation.

His family also chipped in to help, offering her to stay at their bungalow when she struggled with the stairs at her own house. 

Raise awareness 

Miss Lucas is now speaking out to raise awareness of the disease and let others in the same situation know they’re not alone.

She said: ‘There’s not a lot of information on the internet about my type of cancer so I hope I can reach out to people and help them.

‘It can sometimes feel quite lonely so it’s good to find someone else in a similar situation so you know that you’re not alone. 

Lindsey Bennister, chief executive of Sarcoma UK, said: ‘Being diagnosed with a cancer such as osteosarcoma is an isolating and frightening experience..

‘Sarcoma UK is here to provide personal and expert support to people with sarcoma and their families so that they aren’t alone.

‘If you are worried about osteosarcoma, contact our Support Line by phone or email and talk to our bone sarcoma specialist nurse.’ 

 

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