My name is Megan and I'm 21 years old (2013). I was diagnosed with an Osteosarcoma in November 2004. I initially went to my local Casualty as I was having difficulty walking, standing for long periods of time and getting up off the floor after assemblies. Also I would scream involuntarily if my leg was knocked.
The reason for my sudden problems was missed twice. Six weeks after my first trip to Casualty a newly qualified doctor picked up a 'shadowing of the bone' at the bottom of my femur, just above my right knee. After an MRI Scan, Mum was told that I had a large tumour, there was no good news and that I should go to the Middlesex hospital in London as soon as possible. (In hindsight knowing that the cancer hadn't spread to my lungs was a good thing as this is the next place an Osteosarcoma goes).
I started an extremely intensive chemotherapy regime where I would have chemo three weeks out of every five. I needed the other two weeks to recover and for my blood count to rise again. The chemotherapy course that I had meant I felt very sick, lost all my hair within two weeks of starting chemo and had horrific mouth ulcers for one week out of five. While I had mouth ulcers I couldn't talk and struggled to eat. However I did find I could eat microwavable chocolate puddings with chocolate sauce (you can buy these from any supermarket) which were great because they were high in calories and so I didn't lose weight.
Trying to get through treatment positively was at times a real struggle. However Mum encouraging me to make pompoms for my drip, drawing up a battle plan for my tumour (called Fat Pig) and writing a comic song about losing my hair, helped me see the funny side of my new life which made things easier.
In March 2005 I had surgery to remove 4 inches of the affected bone and to insert a 6 inch rod up of the rest of my femur. I had to keep my leg straight for 4 weeks which meant I had to use a wheelchair and was heavily dependent on my crutches.
I finished treatment in July 2005. I am now on a mission to show people that cancer doesn't have to be such a bad and sad thing. In 2007 I had a book published by CLIC Sargent called 'Chemotherapy, Cakes and Cancer' It is an A to Z guide on how to survive the treatment and also contains hints tips and easy to understand definitions on most of the medical terms. It is dedicated to Nathaniel Burke, another Osteosarcoma sufferer who died last year. You can download or order my book for free from the CLIC Sargent website at www.clicsargent.org.uk. (Feedback would be gratefully received!) The first edition of the book has been translated into Spanish (ask CLIC Sargent for a copy - www.clicsargent.org.uk) and the book is now in its second edition, which is very exciting. It has been updated to reflect the latest changes and developments in cancer treatment.
In 2008 I set up a campaign, with the help of the supermarket Tesco, CLIC Sargent and the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) to improve hospital food. The scheme named A Meal when You want (AMY’s Campaign) was set up in memory of my friend Amy Wallace who died of leukemia in 2008. Tesco provide microwavable meals, free of charge to the TCT ward at University College London Hospital. This allows patients to have what they want to eat when they want to eat it.
I am also involved with the Bone Cancer Research Trust and work on their Patient Advisory Panel to edit information and advise the charity how to present information to young people about Bone Cancer.
I have just graduated from the University of Warwick after studying Psychology and am about to embark on Teacher Training in September.
Having cancer changed my life- but for the better. I still keep in touch with other children from hospital as I made strong friendships there. I have also gained a new perspective of life. I no longer worried about tests and exams, as I realize that firstly I am lucky enough to be able to actually do them! My advice to any young people reading this who have just found out they have got cancer would be the following four things:
1. Stay positive- staying positive can make a huge difference. If you are positive your body does seem to cope better!
2. Don't ask yourself unanswerable questions ? it is pointless to ask yourself why you got cancer, because even the experts aren't entirely sure!
3. Don't research the type of cancer you have on the internet; it is normally only the scary and upsetting stories that are published there. Sites run by your hospital or cancer charities like CLIC Sargent website can be helpful (I have also listed a few useful and fun websites about cancer in my book under 'W is for websites'!)
4. Take one day at a time, try and aim to do one nice thing you enjoy each day, (For me this was shopping!!) Even if you just plan to eat something you enjoy, it can help you feel positive.