A cruel joke

Tuesday 3 June, 2008 by Virginia

It has been nearly 8 years since I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumour on my left Femur. I was 16, about to start my Higher School Certificate. I remember I had some pain in my leg if I were to cross one over the other, then came a big lump, then the fatigue; I would go to bed as soon as I got home from school.

I had been going to see a physio about the lump, which they thought was a sporting injury. When the lump didn't recede I was sent for an ultrasound and x-ray. I'll never forget the look on the radiographer's face, "I haven't seen anything like that before." Right there, on my bone was a white, cloudy mass. Mum told me that it was possible I had a tumour. The next day I was in Sydney, having MRIs, CT scans, bone scans and blood tests. I sat in a tiny room with my Mum. The Doctor, a tall, warm, brilliant man who I came to admire greatly over the course of my treatment, took a lock of my hair in his hand and said, "I'm sorry, but all this lovely hair is going to go." The rest of the words washed around me and I didn't understand them. But I knew one thing, I had cancer, I really had cancer.

My treatment was hard on my body and left me very weak. I was so relieved when it came time for me to have my surgery as I had a 6-week break from the chemo. Those 2 weeks in hospital after my operation felt like a holiday! My hair even started to grow back a little bit. I got through my experience with cancer. I got stronger again and got happier for a time.

After about 2 years though, I seemed to be quite lost. The fear of the cancer coming back and losing my life and independence again took hold of me and I got quite depressed. Four years after my initial diagnosis my world was turned on its head once more. In 2004, my Mum had pain in her back, she had been having all sorts of treatment and pain killers to relieve the pain. Then one night, after she returned home from work, she called me upstairs and sat me down. "Virginia, I'm not going to make old bones. I have renal cancer. If I have treatment and surgery the doctors give me 2 years."

I wish I could say that I held it together for her, but it was just such a cruel joke, we had only just started to heal after my battle and now it was going to take her. Mum had regular chemo, had surgery and for 2 years fought braver and harder than anyone else I've known. And all that time she still remained a mother and a source of strength for me. She passed away in January 2007, a week before her birthday.

Updated: 03 Jun, 2008