A Lancashire dad who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer after developing a lump on his leg has revealed how his daughter has embarked on a year-long fundraising and awareness mission. AASMA DAY talks to Mark Howarth
Mark Howarth used to play football regularly and after his left knee became arthritic, he underwent an operation last year.
A few months later, he noticed a lump on the shin of his other leg and the initial diagnosis by a GP was that it was a hernia caused by over-compensating for his other leg and told him that it would get smaller with rest.
Mark, 60, who lives in Leyland, says: “It was a protruding lump about the size of a strawberry. It just ached a bit.”
During a follow-up appointment with an orthopaedic consultant in October, Mark mentioned the lump which had got bigger and he was referred for tests.
The result of an MRI scan suggested there was a possible tumour and Mark had a biopsy which confirmed he had Spindle Cell Pleomorphic Sarcoma.
Mark who is married to Jane and has daughter Lyndsey, 21, says: “This is a soft tissue cancer which is so rare, it is not even mentioned in the Macmillan nurse guide to sarcomas!”
Mark was transferred to Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, a sarcoma specialist centre for the North West, and, in early December last year, he had surgery to remove the tumour which left an eight inch scar from his knee to his ankle.
Mark’s daughter Lyndsey, a tennis coach and personal trainer, decided that she wanted to raise awareness about sarcoma as well as raising funds for the charity Sarcoma UK which supports patients and families who are affected as well as carrying out vital research.
Mark was in hospital for three nights following the operation and, after that, he had twice weekly visits to Liverpool to get his wound cleaned and re-dressed.
Six months later, his final dressing was removed. Mark now has a chest X-ray every three months to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread. And in December – a year on from the operation – he will have an MRI scan on his leg.
Mark explains: “If sarcoma spreads, in the vast majority of cases, it goes to the lungs. This is why I have the chest X-rays. The reason I will have to have an MRI on my leg is that when sarcoma comes back, it often returns in the same place.”
Mark says before his diagnosis, he had never heard of sarcoma and his consultant warned him he could lose his leg.
Mark, who is working part time as a chartered accountant, admits: “I do have the odd down moment or two. But then I pick myself up by telling myself there are people worse off than me. I am being monitored regularly so I just get on with life.
“The care I had in hospital was excellent. I was looked after really well. The support of my wife and daughter has meant everything to me and has really helped me get through everything. Without them, I could not have coped. The support of my friends has also been humbling.”
Lyndsey has set up a justgiving page detailing a year of events. She has completed a Manchester half marathon while another family member has completed The Three Peaks Challenge and many more events are planned or have already taken place, including a sponsored walk from Royal Liverpool Hospital to Chorley Hospital along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
Lyndsey says: “My 12 month fundraising mission is to raise as much money and awareness for Sarcoma UK so that no one ever goes misdiagnosed and ultimately gets told it’s too late to fight.”
Future events include a gig featuring Miles Gilderdale and the Blueflies and also Ken Nicol on Friday August 31 at Fox Lane Sports and Social Club, in Leyland, and a wine and cheese tasting evening at Cuerden Valley on November 16 hosted by Barrica Wines from Botany Bay and the management at Cureden Valley cafe.
l For more details or to donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lyndsey-howarth3
• Sarcomas are uncommon cancers that can affect any part of the body, on the inside or outside including the muscle, bone, tendons, blood vessels and fatty tissues
• 15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma every day in the UK. That’s about 5,300 people a year
• Bone sarcomas affect about 670 people in the UK each year. Not all bone cancers will be sarcomas
• Sarcoma is more common than previously thought. In 2015 there were 5,345 people diagnosed with sarcoma cancer in the UK
• There are three main types of sarcoma: soft tissue sarcoma, bone sarcoma and gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST)
• Sarcoma diagnoses now make up about 1.3 per cent of all cancer diagnoses in the UK
• About 670 cases of bone sarcoma are diagnosed every year in the UK
• Seven in ten (71 per cent) of sarcomas diagnosed in the UK are soft tissue sarcomas
• The majority of people are diagnosed when their sarcoma is about the size of a large tin of baked beans (10cm)
• Sarcoma survival rates have been very gradually increasing over the last two decades in the UK
• Almost eight in 10 people (78 per cent) diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK will live up to a year
• The average percentage of people living three years after being diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK is 64.5 per cent
• The five-year survival rate for sarcoma is 55 per cent
• For more information, visit: www.sarcoma.org.uk