An ex-soldier from Chester is sharing his experience with cancer in the hope of raising awareness of a rare type of the disease.
Stephen Ollerhead, 62, served in the Army for three decades following his father and grandfather into the forces.
Just a few years after losing his right leg below the knee in active service overseas, Stephen discovered a lump in his left thigh.
For nearly four years, Stephen tried to ignore the swelling of his leg despite the fact the lump continued to grow.
Although it wasn’t painful, it was extremely uncomfortable, and at its worst, Stephen’s thigh was the same width as two normal sized thighs together.
Finally, after a consultation at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Stephen was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma and had to undergo surgery to remove a 22lb sarcoma – a rare cancer that develops in the supporting or connective tissues of the body.
They may look like simple lumps or bumps and can often be painless and they can increase in size dramatically.
Renowned for its research and treatment of cancers, The Royal Liverpool Hospital is the regional centre for sarcoma. So, after Stephen’s operation, he thankfully recovered quickly and was even able to walk the day after.
Now Stephen is urging people with potential sarcomas to seek help sooner, and giving them a simple message – if your lump or bump is bigger than a golf ball, don’t hesitate to visit your GP.
He said: “Like most men I thought if I ignore it, it will go away.
“At first I had thought the lump in my left leg was due to putting more pressure on it as I got used to using the prosthesis on my right leg.
“It was hard to walk, I couldn’t turn over in bed and I had to wear, extra-extra-extra large jogging bottoms, but eventually even those were too small so I just had to see my GP.”
“Not only was it a weight off my leg it was a huge weight off my mind and the Royal were fantastic.”
Coonoor Chandrasekar, consultant in Orthopaedics at the Liverpool Sarcoma Service, said: “We see over 100 patients with sarcoma a year at the Royal.
“But all too often we see patients who have waited until their sarcoma has grown and grown, sometimes to the size of a football before they see their GP.
“This will mean they require extensive surgery, sometimes followed by an intensive course of radiotherapy.
“Sadly, due to people leaving it so late before they see a GP, around 40- 50% will die within five years.
“Nevertheless sarcomas are treatable especially when they are diagnosed early and many have been cured, leading a normal life.’
“We want to see more people coming to us when the sarcoma is the size of a golf ball and not a football.”