Chris’ story – It was a choice between keeping my leg, or my life

Keen golfer Chris was 19 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg, and treatment was tough. But his CLIC Sargent Social Worker Karen helped take some of the hassles of cancer away. Chris is now an ambassador for CLIC Sargent and has set up his own blog to help other young people facing cancer. 

Chris getting used to his prosthetic leg

Chris was 19 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg

My cancer story started in the summer of 2015. I’d been playing golf almost every day after work, and was working as a bricklayer from 7am-5pm five days a week. But my leg had been aching a lot.

I’d been dismissing it though. After all, I’d had many injuries on my legs and ankles before, and months went by.

Then a week before the golf finals at my club the pain had gotten so bad that I chose not to play at all until the event. It was a bold move, but it paid off in the end, as I won both finals that I played. It was the last time that I would play golf on two legs.

My leg gave way

A month later my leg gave way when I stepped off a kerb at work in what proved to be the catalyst of my journey over the next 18 months. After two frustrating trips to the local walk-in centre where I didn’t get any answers, in great pain I went to A&E, where they informed me my femur was broken!

A day later they rang me at home and said I needed to come in for more tests. Then on Tuesday 1 December 2015 I was told I had osteosarcoma – a rare bone cancer. I felt more disappointed than anything. I felt like I was letting everyone down. I don’t know why, because none of it was my making. A minute or so passed then the consultant asked if I would like to say anything – ’sh** happens’, I said.

If I’m being very honest, I felt quite confident about the whole chemo malarkey. I think it was because I was extremely fit and very tough mentally. I was in for the biggest surprise of my life. It made me feel like nothing else I’d ever come across before.

Chris smiling at the camera

My treatment was at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre where I’d been working on a building project for a new radiotherapy machine just three months earlier! After two five-week cycles of  chemo, it was time to have surgery to remove the giant 11.5 x 5cm tumour in my femur.

Up until the start of March 2016, the plan had to been to perform a procedure simply called ‘limb salvage surgery’. I was to have an under-prosthesis, in a pioneering operation that involved taking the tumorous bone out and replacing it with a prosthetic part, thus salvaging the limb.

What actually happened was in fact very different. I received the devastating news that the tumour hadn’t actually stopped growing with the help of the chemo, but instead it had actually grown significantly.

This made the under-prosthesis job a whole lot riskier. After being given the options, I argued non-stop for days with my mum and dad. I was keen to save my leg, however they were keener on saving my life.

It came down to leg or life ultimately, and I opted to save my life and sacrifice my leg.

It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life and hopefully one that will probably never be emulated ever again!

My first point of contact with CLIC Sargent came on my second week of treatment when I met my CLIC  Sargent Social Worker Karen. She is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and I got that impression from day one.

She really cares

She is someone who really cares about their job. She was one of those people that you can have a laugh with, but at the same time talk seriously with, and for that she gained my utmost trust, which was quite hard earned in the circumstances.

We talked over many things on that first encounter, but mainly it revolved around how she and others could help take some of the hassles of cancer away.

Help with benefits

One of the first things she helped with was with setting up sickness benefits because the forms were ridiculously long winded.

Karen also applied and secured grants on my behalf that were all too important, considering all the costs involved in my care.

There was another stand out time that Karen helped me, in the summer of 2016. It was well known amongst the staff that I was an avid golfer and Karen offered me the chance to go to the Scottish Open, and accept a cheque on CLIC Sargent’s behalf.

Unfortunately, after finishing treatment in January 2017, my cancer came back in July 2017 and I’ve recently had surgery to remove it once more. I’m dealing with it fine though and hope to be back up on my feet annoying everyone again pretty soon!

I’ve now set up a blog called The Next Step For Chris where I’ve started to blog about my current cancer journey and the charities that continue to support me like CLIC Sargent and The Teenage Cancer Trust.

I recently wrote a blog about my prosthetic leg, but I write about all kinds of stuff that young people with cancer might be interested in.  And I’ve started to play a little bit of golf again too!”

Visit Chris’s blog and to find out more about his cancer experience.

Find out more

CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families.

To find out more about how we support young cancer patients, please visit our what we do section. If you need support yourself please contact us.

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Author: Rachel Gardner

Posted on Wednesday 29 August 2018

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