Fitness fan puts knee pain down to exercise before bone cancer diagnosis

In October 2022, after suffering with knee pain for six months, Amy Haigh, 27, had her world turned upside down.

Despite living a fit and healthy lifestyle, she had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

The gym-goer had thought she was suffering a sports injury but when she finally saw a doctor, they found Amy had a tumour on the end of her femur, close to the knee joint.

She had to undergo a long surgery to remove the cancerous bone, as well as three rounds of chemotherapy.

Amy, from Auckland, New Zealand, said: ‘I thought that it was a sports injury originally.

‘I had visited two physiotherapists, a chiropractor and an osteopath and was following their instructions and doing exercises but my leg wasn’t improving.’

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But in June 2022, the pain started to get worse and her knee swelled up.

She said: ‘I had a dull ache I couldn’t get rid of. I had one session with a personal trainer who told me to get an MRI.

‘I was in the gym five days a week and hoped to participate in a bikini competition as I was really passionate about weight lifting. I felt I couldn’t progress until my leg was sorted.’

The following month she had an X-ray and was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon who ended up declining her referral, and she had to be referred a second time.

Former primary school teacher Amy said: ‘This person for some reason declined my referral – despite there being a deformity of my bone in the x-ray.

‘I was referred to another orthopaedic surgeon who sent me for an x-ray of my hips and an ultrasound of my left knee. Both were fine.

‘He then sent me for the MRI I had been asking for, which showed a clear abnormality on my left distal femur.’

Amy was officially diagnosed in October 2022 after a biopsy.

She said: ‘I was sent for a second MRI and CT scan, but a few days later I was sent for a biopsy where they put me under, cut my leg open and drilled into the bone to take a sample.

‘It was confirmed two weeks exactly after that that I had cancer. I started chemo a week after that.

In January she had an eight hour surgery to remove the cancerous part of the femur.

It was replaced with a donor’s bone from the USA – now one plate and 11 screws hold that part of her leg together.

During the surgery, Amy lost two litres of blood and had to stay in hospital for eight days but the surgery was successful.

Amy said: ‘I’ve been very up and down. The big surgery was very difficult.

‘The first surgery was hard in itself. I went from being in the gym five days a week, horse riding, walking my dogs, working with children to suddenly not being able to do any of that.

‘I had to go on crutches after my biopsy which made work very hard.’

During the three rounds of chemo, Amy became incredibly weak as her immune system and body began to feel the effects of the radiation.

‘I was vomiting, sleeping all the time and being so weak I could hardly lift my head off the couch,’ she said.

‘I lost my hair due to the very strong chemotherapy drugs they had me on.

‘That was a horrendous and very traumatic experience, something I may never be over – even once my hair comes back to its original length.

‘I was such an independent, carefree and spirited person who suddenly couldn’t do anything for herself.

‘My partner had to help me shower and dress after my operations. I had to rely on others for food and water as I couldn’t get these things for myself.

‘My chemo cycles were 35 days long and also involved a two-week stay in hospital.

‘I found this time in the hospital very isolating. My family and friends made sure I had a visitor every day but I still struggled, I would sob every time I was dropped off.

‘My second surgery [to remove the tumour] involved an eight-day stay in Middlemore Hospital.

‘My operation went well and I woke up from it really well.

‘They weren’t sure if I was going to have to be in the high dependency ward afterwards but luckily I was okay.’

In March 2023, Amy announced that after seeing doctors and oncologists she was cancer free.

‘I’m glad I listened to my instincts and kept pushing for answers,’ she says. ‘I also feel lucky that I am so in tune with my body and knew that something wasn’t right.’

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