September 07th 1995 I was being prepped for the biggest surgery of my life, at lunch time I was due to become lunch for the surgeons knife.
I was a great all round athlete before this day. I was enduring, agile, accurate and determined with a great degree of hand eye coordination. But this day sixteen years ago all was about to change…or was it.
For those of you that have no clue why I had surgery try here.
The surgery would involve something along the lines of this:
Cut top third of tibia out and bottom of femur to ensure total removal of osteosarcoma.
Drill cores a further 6 inches into tibia and femur to allow for securing of prosthesis.
At this stage I have no cartilage, 2/3rds of a shin and no place for my hamstrings, quads or many other muscles to attach:
The picture above looks to be a more up to date prosthesis but it gives a clear idea of the size of the removed portion of bone, less the femur shaving!
Next comes the insertion of the implant and the hammering and cementing in place. It is a very physical process that leaves no room for the soft touch, make no mistake, they use hammers.
The muscles are then cut and re attached in the best way possible using clamps and all sorts of surgical mastery. Brilliant though the surgeons are, they were not able to replicate mother natures design so a loss of strength, leverage and mass were inevitable.
The inner head of my calf muscle was severed and “flapped” over the prosthesis to offer protection and enable stitching to take on this and future surgeries.
Nerves were cut, muscles relocated and bones removed. All in about 5 hours or less; the team that handled this were elite.
I awoke from surgery with a brand new leg and no nasty tennis ball sized tumour, which, according to the student who sat in on the surgery, looked like a frozen pork chop.
Wheel chair bound for a while I had to allow the cement to take, the bones to engulf the prosthesis ends and then learn to walk again. My leg looked like a giant sausage with little cocktail sausages for toes :).
The nursing staff of the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the Middlesex Hospital on Goodge Street were AMAZING. I was woken every day with a beaming smile, a practical joke and laughter, despite the death and sickness around them all day. I love that group and owe them my life.
Teenage Cancer Trust work wonders and save the lives of those we love.
I write this post as a reminder to myself about how lucky I am and how close to death I came for a long period of my life. Also to highlight what can be done with the right team around you and an iron will.
I was told I should not expect to run or take part in many sporting activities ever again, possibly never lift my big toe. The prosthesis just wont take the strain and breaking it could mean a loss of the leg and possibly worse due to the spear like pins running up along my thigh.
Well, I am not one to back down from a physical challenge.
Here is a picture of me two weeks ago about 40kg heavier and ready to rock and roll:
Now a Personal Trainer I have learnt how to make my body as strong as possible and resilient to injury and illness so if I ever fall ill with anything, I have a starting point of strength and power.
I ride motorbikes, Kickbox, squat and deadlift heavy weights and am as capable as any of you. Never lift my big toe again…pah!
I workout for a maximum of 90 minutes per week and keep my calories in check. All my check ups are passed with flying colours and my leg is due to be replaced next year….sixteen years on.
Special thanks go out to Mum, Brother and Sister keeping me sane and helping me laugh where crying would have been easier, their love and support in my life is a constant. And the Teenage cancer Trust Team:
Professor Souhami for being the Chemotherapy genius and trialing the method that saved me.
Mr Cobb for being the most amazing surgeon, person and reassuringly confident optimist.
Julie, Alan and Kate (who I had a crush on) for being outstanding in their ability to make me smile, laugh and not fear the drip and helping me to my feet for the first time after surgery.
And to the family Councillor whose name currently evades my memory but I am in the process of hunting her down and will add her here at a later date. She was helpful, supportive and caring in all the right ways.
And of course to the team that oversee my continued surgery and outpatient life.