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Basingstoke hospital was 'second home' for Tom Hills
5:00pm Saturday 13th October 2012 in Local
IT’S A rare illness – and that’s why a young man who spent part of his teenage years battling it is speaking out about his gruelling experience as part of Bone Cancer Awareness Week.
When he was a teenager, Basingstoke hospital virtually became a ‘second home’ for Tom Hills after he was diagnosed with primary bone cancer at the age of just 14.
He first went to doctors complaining of a sore throat but when the continuous pain worsened, he became concerned.
He was already being treated in a private hospital for patellar tendinitis, and when his leg appeared black and blue after the removal of a cast, he and his parents’ concerns increased.
He was sent for an MRI which revealed a tumour the size of a satsuma in his right heel, and a further biopsy proved he had Ewings Sarcoma – a rare bone cancer which affects fewer than 30 children in the UK each year. From then on, Tom’s life quickly became a gruelling round of chemotherapy, brief periods of recovery and illness.
He said: “During the chemotherapy, I was getting ill all the time and I was constantly in and out of Basingstoke hospital.
“Every illness you could think of, I got. My body just couldn’t fight infection.”
Tom’s hair and nails fell out and after about 10 sessions of chemotherapy at another hospital, doctors gave Tom the devastating news that they planned to amputate his leg from just below the knee.
Tom said: “I knew there was no way I was going to let that happen. I refused point blank and they agreed to give me radiotherapy, though they had major concerns about what effect it would have on me.”
Fortunately, Tom, from Medsted, responded better than anyone had hoped to the radiotherapy and after 36 sessions, in addition to further chemotherapy, he made an incredible recovery.
Now 24, the sales consultant said: “I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t even limp and you wouldn’t know to look at me that I had ever been that ill.
“Had it not been for my mum urging the doctors to take our worries seriously I might not have made it.
“I would encourage people to make sure their GP takes their concerns seriously if they have prolonged pain or ongoing symptoms that they are worried about.”
Each year, around 450 people in Britain – mainly children and young adults – are diagnosed with primary bone cancer.
Only around half of them will reach the five-year survival milestone after diagnosis, and many of those who do survive will require limb amputations or be fitted with joint prostheses. Because it’s a relatively rare cancer, and because the symptoms are often put down to growing pains, delays in diagnosis are not uncommon.