“It’s life-changing, it’s something you never think will be you. I didn’t even know bone cancer was a thing, and you just don’t think about it.”
These are the words of Sammy Fradgley, the 34-year-old Skegby mother of young Jacob Fradgley – who is currently fighting his second battle with bone cancer.
Jacob, 17, who is an aspiring tank driver in the armed forces, was first diagnosed with Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma in May 2018 after finding a ten-centimetre tumour on his hip.
This is a rare type of cancer that affects bones or the tissue around bones, with just 30 children diagnosed in the UK every year.
It most commonly affects young adults, with the pelvis, thigh bone and shin bone being the most affected areas.
And for Jacob, finding this tumour led to a number of scans which showed cancer in his spine, head and legs.
The young cadet, who still studies public services at West Nottinghamshire College despite his illness, successfully battled the cancer and became disease-free in July this year – only to learn last month that it had returned.
Sammy, who works as a senior carer in Sutton, says the family have experienced a “whirlwind” 18 months which even led to her taking a step back from work.
“He was diagnosed in May last year. I had just finished a 12-hour shift at work and I came home, and Jacob said he had been in bed all day and had been sick”, she said.
“I had a look and his left hip was swollen, so we took him to A&E and they did bloods, he went for an x-ray and I knew something wasn’t right.
“The doctor came out and said he has a tumour and that could be bone cancer.”
On the Sunday, Jacob had an emergency MRI scan and it was confirmed that he had cancer, and that the tumour in his pelvis was ten centimetres in size.
The family were referred to Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital where scans found a two-centimetre lump on his head and signs of cancer in his spine and legs.
“They told us it wasn’t very good”, Sammy said. “Surgery wasn’t an option, his tumour was inoperable so we had to rely on the chemo.
“He had 19 rounds of intense chemotherapy and there was also 56 sessions of radiotherapy to all his affected areas.
“His last chemo was in January and he rang the bell in July, so there was nine-and-a-half months where he cancer free.”
But about a month ago Jacob and Sammy found a large lump on his head, which “felt exactly the same” as before.
They called the ward at Queen’s Medical Centre where he received his chemotherapy, and the next day they were in for a CT scan.
Jacob was in surgery a week later to have the tumour removed from his head, and he was given a number of options for his treatment.
“He’s now on a drug which is the first line in America for relapse, and he has made the decision to have this treatment”, she said.
“If that doesn’t work there are other options but we are limited, and the more you try, the chances of success get further away.
“If it works he can go for a STEM cell transplant in the hope to eradicate the cancer, but that only happens if chemo works.”
Sammy says that, despite a relapse in his condition, Jacob has been “brilliant” and continues to “take it in his stride”.
“How he handles it is amazing, he takes everything on the chin”, she added.
“He knows there’s nothing anybody can do and that we’ve just got to get on with it. That's how we are as a family and we've had amazing support.”
Consultants at the Nottingham hospital told Sammy that, if there was anything young Jacob wanted to experience in life, to “get it done now”.
So they have set up a JustGiving page and hope to raise £5,000 to help Jacob “make some amazing memories".
“I’ve asked him for a list of ten things he wants to do so we can work through it, but it’s having time to sit down and plan it”, she added.
“He hasn’t come up with anything yet because it’s quite overwhelming, but my friend has sorted out a day at an army barracks in Nottingham and we’re hoping he can meet his idol Ant Middleton.”