Growing up, Helen was twice diagnosed with osteosarcoma - first at the age of 12, and again at 14. During her second diagnosis, Helen had the opportunity to be part of a clinical trial, involving treatments developed by Cancer Council-funded research.
Helen credits this research as being a big part of why she's still here today. She has written a letter to all the wonderful supporters who make such work possible.
Research is so important and it’s the reason why I’m still here today. I want to thank you for funding research into new treatments.
I was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, at the age of 12 and again at 14.
I think the first time, being diagnosed and undergoing treatment was probably an intense experience, but I didn’t know what was coming at me. The first thing I was worried about was losing my hair. But the second time, I knew what was coming. It was more intense.
Both times, treatment involved full joint replacement and high dose chemotherapy.
I had my left knee replaced the first time, and my right shoulder the second time. The surgery was painful, and I’ve now got limited movement and strength – I’m just used to it now.
I lost all my hair both times. Being a teenage girl, it was quite a big deal.
Helen during her treatment, which thankfully was successful
The tumours were primary cancers, which is very rare. I took part in a clinical trial as part of my treatment the second time around. It involved Colony Stimulating Factors (CSFs), which stimulate stem cells to help my body cope with the high dose chemotherapy I was receiving.
This treatment was the result of work by Cancer Council-funded researcher Professor Don Metcalf, who discovered CSFs. It was made available to patients in 1990, and I’m one of the millions of people worldwide to have received this treatment.
I think the CSF and stem cell treatments are a big part of why I’m still here today.
Helen (left) with her family
If you look at the effects of cancer, not only on the patient, but everyone around them … everyone gets touched by cancer at some stage.
So thank you. It’s because of people like you that I was able to receive this new treatment and have gone on to be a mum of four. Your support of research now means more people in the future will also survive.