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Synovial sarcoma

From Mr Hamish McKay

I am seconded to germany, and was working here when I discovered that I had cancer. I had a small lump on my sternum which had been there for quite a while, but as it did not hurt and had not grown I ignored it. However while I was working in Germany the lump started to hurt. I went to see my local doctor who immediately sent me to see a surgeon. Within one week I had an operation to remove the lump.

Following this first surgery I was told that in fact two lumps had been removed and one of them was malignant. This as you can imagine was a huge shock, made worse because my father had died the year before with asbestosis. My children were the worst hit, they ran around the village in tears saying their father was going to die, Isla was 6 and Fraser 9. I sat them down and told them I was not going to die, that the cancer had been caught early and everything would be alright. They eventually accepted what I had to say.

I was sent to see a specialist in the week that followed, and then had to go for an MRI scan, Xrays and ultrasound. I was told I may have to have a second operation and had to return to see the surgeon in just over a weeks time. I took a weeks holiday to take my mind off things and this really helped.

When I visited the specialist, I was told that the type of cancer I had is called a synovial sarcoma, which is a soft tissue cancer normally associated with the legs or arms, mine was between my clavicle and right on the sternum. I was also told there was a third tumour which needed to be removed, plus tissue surrounding this and the earlier operation, and the ends of both clavicle and part of the sternum, I was in hospital three days later.

After eight days in hospital I was released but in a lot of pain, which is still the case as I write this. I have been told that the cancer has not spread, and the opeation was successfull in removing all the cancerous tissue, I have not got to have any therapy, but am having regular MRI scans every three months. I am lucky I was in Germany as treatment was very swift, but the support from the doctors has been minimal, and post operative support is difficult in a foreign country as my German is limited. I look forward to returning to England next year, where there appears to be more support, I expect that is just a perception as my German is so limited.

My wife has been a huge support through all, but it has had a huge psycological affect on both of us. friends and family have been fantastic, but it has been difficult returning to work. It is all too easy to do too much and then I am unable to do anything for a day. But I am feeling positive, I am sure even though this cancer is aggressive, that I am clear, and I will keep thinking this way. I could not have got through this so well without the support of my family, my freinds and work.

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Updated: 28 September 2009