In November 2017, James Catlow’s girlfriend Emma Mayor spotted a lump on his back and suggested he get it checked out.
He had no other symptoms and was enjoying life, working in wealth management, watching Manchester City and playing golf.
He went to see his GP, who said to monitor the lump, and by April it had grown to almost 9cm. He went to Royal Preston Hospital for an ultrasound and MRI scan. A week later he got a call from a specialist sarcoma nurse.
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James, from Fulwood, says: “I knew from the time of the first phone call that it was something serious. I started expecting the worst.
“The only time I had heard of sarcoma was when I had the ultrasound, and I started looking into what it might be.
“I didn’t want to know how big it was inside, I knew how big it was on the outside and that was enough. It would have scared me to know how big it was inside.”
He had a CT scan, followed by a biopsy at Preston Hospital.
Later that month, doctors confirmed he had Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone or soft tissue, which had originated from a back rib.
It mainly affects children and young people, with most cases diagnosed in people aged 10 to 20.
He started treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral in June,
under the care of sarcoma specialist Dr Nasim Ali.
He had six cycles of chemotherapy and flew to Florida last week with his mum Jane Blackwell, where he will spend around six weeks getting proton beam therapy after being referred by the NHS.
Following all the support he was given by staff at the centre, James is now backing a £100,000 fund-raising appeal by The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity and The Bloom Appeal to help build a Teenage and Young Adult unit (TYA) at the new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre under construction in Liverpool, due to open in 2020.
He says: “The first time I went to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre they showed me the Teenage and Young Adult Unit. I thought it was great.
“It was such a relief knowing I would be somewhere like that when I came in for treatment. Somewhere comfortable, with your own room and other young people in the unit. I can bring my own food in and during the summer when I was in for treatment, having a fridge was really useful.
“I didn’t know what my tastes were going to be and I actually craved fresh fruit and other fresh tasting food, so I was able to bring it in and keep it there. I would have been lost without it.
“I watched the World Cup on the TV in the social area, as well as the golf and Wimbledon. I have developed an interest in these sports as my mum is chairman of Fulwood Tennis Club and my dad, Mike Catlow, is captain of Longridge Golf Club.
“I can sleep much better as I have my own room and that has also been a big help.
“I dread to think what it would have been like without the TYA. Having my own room and the facilities have allowed me to maintain some normality during my stays at the centre, and being able to spend time with friends and my girlfriend.”
James, a former Cardinal Newman College student, has had six rounds of chemotherapy, staying in the TYA unit for four days each time.
He celebrated his 21st birthday last month with a small family gathering and tried to lead a normal life.
He says: “I have managed to get to one City match, but I need to be really careful because of the chance of infection while I am on treatment. I miss the little things that people might take for granted but I have been really lucky, my family, girlfriend and friends have been amazing.
“My friends come to see me in hospital and my girlfriend can stay over because of the spare bed in my room. We even ordered in a Chinese takeaway one Saturday night when I was in.
“My bosses and colleagues at the Ribble Valley branch of Raymond Jones have been brilliant and so supportive.”
For more information on the appeal visit http://www.clatterbridgecc.nhs.uk/charity/home.