Nicola’s Story – Cancer and Pregnancy Awareness Week 2015 – Sarcoma

Nicola&OrlaMy name is Nicola and I am 35 years old and have a daughter called Orla who is 18 months old.  Here is my story: –

I had treatment, about 11 years ago, for a verruca on the ball of my left foot.  I remember it was very painful at the time and had treatment to remove it every week for almost a year.

Maybe about two years later, what I thought was the verruca, had started to come back.  I left it and just presumed that it was the verruca and that ‘one day’ I will go back to the chiropodist to get more treatment on it.  It only really caused me pain when I had been wearing high heeled shoes and if I was standing for long periods of time.

In March 2013 I found out I was pregnant.  During my pregancy I noticed that the verruca had grown rapidly which i can only descirbe as an egg shaped lump which was growing into my toes.  I could not put my foot flat on the floor as the lump was so raised and by this point very painful indeed.  I gave birth on the 15th November 2013.  At this point I could hardly put my foot to the floor and could not wear high heeled shoes as my foot was swollen and extremely painful.  With a new born baby I had to do a lot of lifting etc so I made an appointment with the Chirpodist to get it checked out.

The Chirpodist explained that he had never seen anything like this and he said I should make an appointment with my G.P almost immediately.  I did this the same day.  I attended the appointment with my G.P a couple of days later who told me the same; he had never seen anything like it before and had no idea what it could be.  He referred to me a foot and ankle specialist for further investigation.  My G.P asked if he could take a photograph of the lump, which at the time I thought was a bit strange but knowing what I know now – I can understand why

I attended Gisburn Park Hospital in or around April 2014 to see the foot specialist.  He told me that he did not quite know Nicola Roach1what it was, other than it may be a bone spur or a begnin tumour.  He said he wanted me to have an X-Ray and an MRI scan of the area as a matter of urgency.  I got the appointments through very quickly, maybe within the week and I attended for these.

I then received a letter from the Sarcoma Unit at Chorley Hospital, I had no idea or had ever heard of Sarcoma before, requesting that I attend to see another foot specialist to discuss the results of the MRI scan and the X-Ray.  He said the X-Ray had not shown anything up but the MRI scan had shown some enlarged tissue and that the next step was to have a Bisopsy done at Preston hospital.

Again I had the appointment through almost straight away and attended for the Biopsy.  The Consultant doing the Biopsy put my mind at rest when he told me that he would be very surprised if the results came back anything horrible and that it was probably just an infection.  A huge sigh of relief that did make me feel very positive that it was probably just caused by an infection and that the lump would just be removed.

I had the biopsy done on the Friday and on the following Friday I had a call from Nina a Sarcoma Specialist Nurse at Chorley to say that the results of the Biopsy were back and that I needed to attended in the Clinic on the Tuesday.  I asked what the results were and she said it is not normal procedure to give them over the telephone and that I should attend at the Clinic at 9am on the Tuesday and i should bring someone with me.  I knew straight away that this was not just some infection – it was serious.

I attended at the appointment.  My name was called and I walked into the room where there were 4 consultants and the Sarcoma Specialist Nurse.  I was then given the devasting news that the cells from the lump were malignant and that they needed to act immediately.  I had to have a full body scan that day to make sure it had not spread to any other parts of my body and I was referred to the Sarcoma Team in Liverpool where I would be seen by the Plastic Surgeon to discuss where we went from here and to give me the results of my body scan.  I can not put into words how I felt at that moment. I felt like my whole world had fallen apart.

I travelled to Liverpool on the following Monday to see the Sarcoma Surgeon who told me the good news that my body scan was clear.  He told me the Sarcoma I had was Clear Cell Sarcoma and on a scale of 1 to 10 the severity of mine was 9.  He said that this type of Sarcoma could not be treated with Chemotherapy nor Radiotherapy and that the only option open to me was to have a below the knee amputation and it had to be done within a matter of weeks, not months.  At this point I really did not think that things could have got any worse – my world really had crumbled.  My first thought was that I could not possibly have this done as I had a baby!  I asked the Consultant what would happen if i did not go ahead with the surgery and he said that I would have a maximum of 5 years to live as the Sarcoma was so agressive it would have spread around my body.

I then had to get my head around all this and eventually had to go through with the operation.  On the 31st July 2014 (a date I would like to forget, but I never will!) I was admitted to Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool where I underwent my surgery.

I was discharged from Broadgreen hospital 8 days after my operation.  I then had to return to the Linda McCartney Suite at Liverpool Royal Hospital where I saw my Surgeon who gave me good news that they had got clear margins from where they had amputed.  He then told me I would have to attend for 3 monthly check ups for chest X-Rays for the next 2 years to make sure it has not spread.

Now almost twelve months on I have a fabulous prosthesis, a great Sarcoma team and a wonderful Rehabilitation Team in Preston.  I look at how far I have come since my operation and it was definitely worth it to save my life.

If there is one thing I have learnt from this – is no matter what – get everything checked  before it is too late.

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