A 13-year-old girl has spoken of her battle against bone cancer to highlight the lack of awareness and understanding of the disease.
More than 450 people – mainly children and young adults – are diagnosed with primary bone cancer each year and only about half will survive the next five years.
Unlike other cancers, survival rates among primary bone cancer sufferers have not improved in the past 20 years and the Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT) is running Bone Cancer Awareness Week this week to highlight the need for further research into treatments.
Francesca Haigh, of Cullingworth, was inspired to speak out after losing her friend Zack to the disease last year. Since then she has raised £2,500 for the BCRT and also raised awareness by speaking about her illness in school, being awarded a Princess Diana Courageous Citizen Award for her efforts.
Francesca was a seven-year-old pupil at Cullingworth Primary School when she started getting pains in her left leg. It was absolutely devastating for her family to find out that what they thought were growing pains, was actually osteosarcoma.
The treatment that followed included eight months of chemotherapy and major surgery to replace her knee and half her femur with a titanium rod.
“So I was part bionic woman, which made me smile,” said Francesca, who had her treatment alongside her Zack.
“Zack always found time to make people aware of this awful disease and raise money at the same time, so I thought why can’t I? I can carry on his spirit and make him proud,” said Francesca.
Since then Francesca had given presentations at her school, Skipton Girls’ High School and baked hundreds of biscuits to raise money.
She has also set up a cupcake business called Delicate Delights, which donates to BCRT every year, and spoken at the BCRT’s national conference.
Her next fundraising idea is to organise a concert in Skipton.
“I hope people who have read this realise how amazing BCRT are and how important they are to me and my family, also to other families and children who have been affected with this awful disease. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
Francesca’s dad, Christopher Burke, 38, watch commander at Idle Fire Station added: “The treatment was hard on Francesca but she never let it get her down.”