“I HAD a dodgy left knee in March last year – fluctuating, agonising pain,” recalls Ben Murphy, a keen footballer and rugby player.
“One week I would be debilitated by it and the next I would be fine.
“Being so sporty, I put it down to a knock, as did the first couple of doctors.”
The 24-year-old, of Holly Bush Road, Newborough, underwent stability tests at the GP’s and Burton’s Queen’s Hospital – but they were not the problem.
When anti-inflammatory drugs failed, the Shrewsbury-born former Needwood Primary School and John Taylor High School pupil booked an appointment with a private physiotherapist.
“He went through all sorts of tests – ultrasound and pressure – gave me a massage and some exercises,” he explains.
“His initial thought was it would be a deep muscle ligament tear in the quadriceps.”
Ben returned when the treatment proved fruitless.
“He did another session, didn’t charge and was completely stumped,” says Ben. “He said ‘get yourself a scan.”
The Plymouth University geography graduate underwent an MRI scan on July 4 last year at Queen’s.
“I got a call two days later from my GP, who had seen the report and was very worried,” he says, recalling that he went to the surgery immediately.
“I was expecting something along the lines of ‘you’ve damaged your knee’ but he said ‘from what I can see, it might be cancer’.
“I was speechless – in absolute shock. I didn’t break down and my mum was with me. I thought ‘what can you say?’.”
A week or so later, Ben had a biopsy at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) in Birmingham.
During his three-day stay, a worker from the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) prepared Ben for the possible outcome, providing help which proved invaluable.
On July 24, she phoned with his results.
“She said ‘it’s what we expected. It’s osteosarcoma – a cancer diagnosis,” says Ben.
He was one of the 400 patients diagnosed with the condition, a form of bone cancer, in the UK each year.
“Because of the work the TCT worker put in, giving me all the details and making me feel at ease, and telling me about the treatment and the chemotherapy and making it all more understandable, it was not much of a shock because I had been told to expect it,” says Ben.
“It was more of a case of ‘what next? Let’s get started.
“I was confident was could move forward and get it all sorted.
“Getting upset about it would have made it worse.”
Ben, a nurse scheduler at Burton-based Healthcare at Home, took further heart after consulting colleagues.
He started six five-week cycles of chemotherapy on August 23 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Birmingham.
Doctors intended to replace Ben’s knee during surgery and still held out hope of doing so after post MRI-scan tests showed the tumour had spread from bone to tissue.
However, they ended up performing a far more drastic operation after opening him up – amputating his lower left leg.
“I went down to the operating theatre thinking I was going to get a new knee but came out without the bottom of my leg,” he says.
Though shocked, the fact doctors had warned him what may happen helped draw the sting.
“They are very confident they have removed the tumour fully, which I hope to God they have because of the operation I had,” Ben says.
His chemotherapy resumed on January 7 – he is on cycle four – and an appointment to fit a prosthetic limb next week.
Ben is supported by his father Greg, 54, a plant manager, mother Bev, 52, an occupational therapist, twin brother Sam, who works in hotel hospitality, and sister Kathy, 21, an event management student at Plymouth University.
He also takes strength from mates at his football club, Alrewas Royal British Legion, and rugby team, Barton under Needwood, as well as the core of friends he has retained from John Taylor High School.
Then there’s the TCT and nurses.
“If you could give a knighthood to all the nurses here (QEH), they definitely deserve it – as does everybody at the ROH.
Unfailingly optimistic and fiercely determined, Ben refuses to countenance the possibility that cancer could one day kill him.
“It just does not really fit into the way me and my family and friends deal with it,” he says.
If Ben’s battle was confined solely to his mind, it is one he would surely win hands down.