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Tumour discovery scares woman into life

ALYS HILL
Last updated 11:27 07/07/2014

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Last year I truly believed I was going to die.

I'm a dance and drama teacher and I had been having pains in my leg niggling away for a month.

In anticipation of a physical theatre course I was planning to run I went to the doctor to get my ankle checked out, thinking I would get a physio referral and some help with having it properly strapped.

The doctor took one look at my leg, and sent me for an X-ray.

As if time was passing by in a series of slides I was in a room at the bone clinic having a specialist tell me that I really needed to call my husband to come and be with me.

I felt like I was in an episode of House, lying in the MRI machine and all I could think of was whether my tiny wee baby, 17 weeks inside me, was scared of the noise. And my 18-month-old son.

The first mention of the word tumour sent my mind spinning, thinking how stressed I'd been all year with work.

Imagine if this was the last year of my life and I'd wasted even a minute of it thinking of anything other than the little boy who needed me more than anything else in the world.

After a biopsy with an epidural to minimise the drugs that would affect my baby, I was awake the whole time through the surgery analysing every inflection in the surgeons' voices to see if they could tell by looking at it if it was sarcoma or not.

And then a week, a full week suspended in horror, stuck on a couch, unable to walk, stuck on Google desperately trying to find any clue as to whether the thing that had taken over my leg was a relatively harmless aneurysmal bone cyst or deadly fully fledged sarcoma.

Everything seemed to point to sarcoma.

This spiral of thoughts as my priorities flashed around and around in unreasonable bursts was like a mental game of whack-a-mole.

I don't want a big scar on my leg. I don't want to lose my hair, I'd look ugly without hair...

As long as I can dance or run again ... actually who cares, if I can just walk again, so that I can pick up my son who's just tripped over and is crying for me.

If I could just go and get myself a drink of water without having to ask again.

Actually I don't care if I lose my leg, I just want my life, even if I'm sitting on this couch forever I have to watch my sons grow up.

Please just let me keep the baby.

Like a knife in my head even remembering the wee baby going through every test and probe at the same time as me. There is just no way I could come out of this with my leg, my baby and my life.

I can't believe I didn't audition for a show because I was too nervous. I can't believe I didn't want to join a new dance class because I felt too fat. I can't believe I didn't wear the clothes I wanted to because of my pasty white legs. Who cares? I had legs!

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I can't believe I felt bored living in Christchurch when there are beaches that I may never walk on again, but I could have run on them.

Then those big long blank hours where no thought could form, just panicky horror.

We were finally back in that little bone clinic room waiting for the results. The doctors were hours delayed. My husband and I just sat paralysed, unable to form a thought.

Finally, the specialist came in. Right now, someone other than me knows my future. Someone will have gone through a test in a laboratory somewhere and will know that a random 27-year-old pregnant woman will most likely live or die over the upcoming months.

He walks in, "Good news," he said.

A year down the track I'm writing this with a healthy baby girl on my knee, who's not letting me type properly.

I ran 8.5 kilometres yesterday and have just finished a term of a new dance class.

When I bend over in yoga I don't think, "damn it my toes are gross, I wish I'd put polish on", I look at the big zip scar from the subsequent surgeries I went through and I feel a burst of happiness that I have two legs.

I honestly thought that chasing my boys, seeing my daughter's tiny toes curl up in my hand, that the ordinary would eventually become ordinary again and the novelty of being alive would wear off.

Nope. Every day I'm happier. I am so lucky. I am so happy.

It's been a gift that makes me feel more alive than I ever have and more grateful than I ever thought I could be.

It's not wearing off so far, and I also feel incredibly loved and appreciated by people I never even used to be that close to.

The only heart wrench is when I'm back in that bone clinic for follow ups and I see the surgeon go into that room where other people are waiting and I know, that some of them have just heard "I'm really sorry, but...".

I came out with my leg, my baby and my life, and a way, way better one at that.


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