Cancer In Young Adults ... Through Parents’ Eyes

Narratives & Stories

Michael's Story

Michael was 15 and at school when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

One Parent With A Son Who Has Cancer

This all started in March 1995. My son who is 15 years old was complaining about pains in his left knee and leg. I thought it was growing pains and I kept sending him to school. I was in a bed-sit at this time, so I took Michael to see our GP. He told us that Michael had sprained his knee. So I took him home but a week later Michael was still crying with pain, so I took him back to our GP and he gave Michael some cream to put on his knee. But when we put it on his knee, came out like a football and he was still in pain. So instead of taking Michael back to the GP I took him up to our hospital. I told them what our GP said, that was on Friday morning. They did x-rays on Michael’s left leg and knee and at 9.00 p.m. that night they told us that they wanted Michael to go to Leeds to see a consultant.

We went to Leeds on the Monday to see [the specialist] and he wanted us to go to Birmingham Hospital for a biopsy to make sure if it was what he thought it was. We went to Birmingham Hospital on the Tuesday. And they did the biopsy and they found out it was what the specialist thought it was. We went back to Leeds a week later to see him and he told myself and Michael that he had got OSTEOGENIC SARCOMA, that is bone cancer.

This all started in April 1995, when Michael went into Leeds Hospital to start his treatment. Michael had to have blood tests, bone scan, CT scan and MRI scan and x-rays. Then the doctors knew what drugs to give to Michael. Before they could give him any drugs they had to put a PORTACATH inside Michael where all the drugs will go through. So they started Michael on CHEMOTHERAPY. When Michael had to stay in, I also stayed with him. We were in for a week on treatment and then went home for a week. But while Michael was home Michael had to be very careful that he didn’t get any infections. Then Michael had to go back into Leeds for more treatment. This happened every couple of weeks.

I know one thing it is very hard when you are a one-parent who has a child with cancer and when you stay in hospital with your child while having treatment and seeing them going through pain and crying all the time. Plus when you’ve got another child who doesn’t know what is going on it is very hard for a one-parent to cope with.

I had to ask the social worker to go to see my other son who was staying with my ex-husband to explain what was wrong with Michael and what was happening to Michael. But after a couple of months of treatment Michael was very poorly and I nearly lost him. I was on my own at Michael’s bedside in the hospital and I prayed that Michael would go in his sleep where he wouldn’t suffer anymore and that Michael would not be in pain anymore. I sat and cried my eyes out about that. I even told the doctor about this and he understood why I said it. I was delighted when they told me that Michael was going to be all right. We had been out of hospital for a little while then Michael got an infection, so we had to go back into Leeds and start again with treatment. And while we was in hospital the doctor was talking to Michael and myself about operations on Michael’s knee and chest and lungs. It is very hard when you are on your own to make your mind up what is right for your child. But because Michael turned 16 years old in January, 1996, he made his own mind up about what to do. Later on Michael got poorly again and we nearly lost him again but this time he fought back to prove to me that he will never give in. And when he got better again we went home. But this way we stayed out of hospital for a while only going up to Leeds Hospital for check-ups.

Then in June 1997 we went to see the doctor and he said he thinks the time has come for Michael to have the operation on his knee. So we had to go back to Birmingham Hospital where Michael was having the replacement with metal PROSTHETIC bone. The operations went OK, the doctors told us. But a little while after, Michael had no feeling in his left foot. So Michael had to have a splint on to help to walk. Then in July 1997 Michael had to go back into Birmingham Hospital for a week of intensive physiotherapy to begin mobilising his leg problem. Then in September 1997 Michael had to go back into Leeds Hospital for surgery for successful removal of lung secondaries which were confirmed to be non-active. Michael made a quick recovery from this operation.

After this operation we were at home for a while again. No infections, nothing. It was great. We even went on holiday for a week. Then in April 1998 we had to go back to Leeds to see the doctor and did more scans. And he told us that they have found another lump on Michael’s lungs and they couldn’t do anymore chemotherapy because they gave Michael the strongest one before. the doctor asked Michael if he could have a word with me in private. Then the doctor told me that Michael only had months to live. That broke my heart because the doctor told me not to tell Michael.

Then we went back in May for another check-up. The lump had got bigger until August, Michael had to go for another check-up but now he was getting weaker. So the doctor got in touch with our G.P. for him to call to the house nearly every day to see Michael and the district nurse as well. We had to get a hospital bed into the front room for Michael and a special mattress as well. Michael was talking to the social worker and he said he’d got four wishes:

  1. To be at home.
  2. He wanted his mum and brother to be there.
  3. To die in his sleep like his granddad did.
  4. And to be buried with his granddad.

He got all four wishes, they all came true for him.

I went through this on my own for 3 1/2 years without any sleep. Michael told his brother two days before he passed away that he loved his brother and goodbye. He even asked a friend who he only knew for four months, would he and John Michael his brother carry his coffin because he never wanted to go on the trolley.

I know deep down from my heart that Michael was a brave young lad and a fighter for what he had to go through. I know now I couldn’t go through that again not on my own. What hurt me most is that I couldn’t do anything at all for Michael only be at his side 24 hours a day. What I am trying to say is when you’ve got a child who is very poorly you haven’t got a life for yourself. I will never forget what Michael and I have been through for those 3_ years, it is like going to hell and back, not knowing what’s going to happen next. People make me laugh, they say they know what we have been through but they don’t. If they haven’t had a child with cancer they don’t know anything. I just wish one day someone from the government would go to Leeds Hospital and go on the ward to see all the sick children and the parents, see how they would feel seeing young children and parents not knowing if their child is going to live or die. I know now when you got a child ill, like Michael, you need all your family around you. I just wish one day they will find a cure for cancer before its too late. This is from my heart. I loved Michael very much but I still cannot come to terms with this, that Michael had died. It is five months now and I still cry for him. I just wish I could have done more for him then he might have still been here today with his brother John and myself.

A private word to parents. Just keep a brave face on, try not to get upset in front of your child. Also try to do everything in your power to keep the child happy, it is very hard. Take no notice if the child gets nasty toward you, that is the pain. I found out that lots of times with Michael.

What was hard for me was the morning when Michael passed away I had to ask John, my other son, and my boyfriend to help me change Michael’s bed because he wet it. He died five minutes after the district nurse came. I rang my friend up, instead of talking to him I screamed down the phone. Also to the parents, you will ask yourself the same question over and over “Why was it our son or daughter?” because I have been doing that myself for the last five months. I know deep down from my heart that I am happy now that Michael isn’t in anymore pain and he is not suffering anymore.

I just wish Michael will R.I.P.
Love always from my heart.
I will always love you Michael you were very brave.
And I am proud of you and I know all your friends things so as well.

Also, I was happy that Michael found a girlfriend and he was happy going out with her knowing that he was in a wheelchair most of the time. Michael tried to do things for himself but he never gave in. That is how brave he was.

I even made a wish come true for Michael he also wanted to go and meet Manchester United team and manager. So I got in touch with ‘Wish-Upon-A-Star’ and they arranged for Michael and myself to go and meet the players and the manager. He really enjoyed that. I was very happy to do that for him.

I know that Michael will be missed but he is still in my heart. When I go to his grave I always talk to him, asking him things and telling him how much I love him and miss him. I know from my heart Michael was brave but while he was out of hospital he used to draw pictures and he always had a laugh and a joke with people even if he was in pain. He never told anyone how bad he felt inside himself about his illness. He loved his remote control cars. He used to sit in his wheelchair outside and play with the remote control car for hours every day. And go out with John, his brother, to play snooker. Michael used to get upset seeing other children at his age going out on bikes, playing football, doing everything they wanted. But Michael couldn’t do any of them, only sit in the wheelchair or on the wall. Michael couldn’t walk far because he got tired very quickly. That was what hurt and upset Michael and I felt terrible that I couldn’t make it come true for him that he would be like the rest and he could do like they could.

My boyfriend used to take us out in the car for a drive and Michael loved that, nearly every Wednesday. Even if it was raining Michael still wanted to go out. Michael even got himself and his girlfriend a kitten each. It was hard for his girlfriend that she only knew Michael for four months and got on very well together. I know Michael loved her. He used to talk to me about her all the time. I still see her ever day.

Also, I would like to thank all the doctors and nurses who cared and looked after Michael. They did a very good job. Michael made friends with all the staff from St. James’s Hospital as well. A very big thank you to you all. That is from John and myself. Also all the family and friends say thank you for what you done for Michael.

I feel so empty inside me because I haven’t got Michael anymore to look after and care for no more.