In December 2008, Ellie was hit by a ball whilst playing at Brownie’s after school club – her knee swelled alarmingly and disproportionately.
"The people running the club knew something wasn’t right and called my mum immediately. My mum took one look and took me to the local GP, but they didn’t think it was anything serious. Three days later, my leg gave way as I was going up the stairs. My mum took me to a hospital emergency department and insisted on a scan. That’s when they saw a mass, and I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma."
Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer, which mainly effects children and young adults under the age of 25. Around 30 new cases of osteosarcoma in children are diagnosed each year in Great Britain, and 45 in teenagers and young adults.
Ellie went through months of treatment at several hospitals, including UCLH. She had six chemotherapy cycles, losing a lot of weight. A surgical operation removed the tumour on her femur, as well as the bones from her knee and leg, which were replaced with metal rods. Being so weak from the chemotherapy, Ellie’s recovery was not straightforward.
“I had my surgery in March 2009, and got the ‘all clear’ at the end of 2010. Not all patients’ treatment takes so long, but mine was delayed due to infection, then the skin graft and physiotherapy. I had three types of chemotherapy, which have different side effects.”
Ellie’s experience helps her to guide and support her patients. “I can empathise and sympathise with patients. And that makes them trust me a bit more, you know, I’ve been there, and I can tell them the truth about it. I’m so grateful I get to be there for these children in the same way that nurses like my line manager Faye was there for me when I was being treated.”
Faye (Ward Sister for T12) appreciates the way Ellie’s story highlights the vital role nurses play in the lives of young cancer patients, providing clinical and emotional support at a very scary time.
“Ellie’s journey from being a cancer patient to becoming a nurse is a testament to her resilience, determination, and compassion. Her personal journey has influenced her career choice in wanting to be a nurse and this is reflected in her caring and empathic attitude towards all her patients and their families.
“We are proud of Ellie and all of our team who care for our families. We are also really pleased that she has chosen to use her story to help us raise funds for our patients on the ward.”
Through Ellie’s story, the UCLH Charity Cancer Fund is raising money for a new reading and quiet area, a portable toys and games trolley for bedside play, and an improved bell-ringing experience.