Nigel’s Story

My story started in January 2021. One evening, I folded my arms and felt a lump in my right upper arm. I thought to myself it was probably just muscular. After a couple of weeks, it didn’t appear to be getting any smaller, so I rang my GP, who immediately sent me for an ultrasound scan. It was quite clear from the screen that there was some form of mass in my triceps. Over the next few weeks, things moved quite quickly with x-rays and an MRI scan, following which I was contacted by the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.

I started to realise that this was a lot more serious than I originally thought and how it may impact my life as a guitarist with my band Witcher, my love of driving, DIY, and general day-to-day living. Within 2 months, I had a CT scan and biopsy at ROH. Resulting in being told that I had a soft tissue pleomorphic Sarcoma, finally I knew what it was. My treatment plan would involve an operation following radiotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Which meant a 26-mile journey up and down the M5, 5 days a week, for 5 weeks. Fortunately, some good friends took me and my wife, Sarah, every day, which took the pressure off us, and we will always be extremely grateful for what they did for me. The treatment I received under Dr. Peake and his team was first-class.

Following the CT and MRI scan, we met my consultant, Mr. Scott Evans. Upon meeting Scott, I immediately felt relatively at ease and comfortable. As he explained to my wife and me, the seriousness of my operation meant that I could lose sensation in my whole arm. Or the worst-case scenario, being that I could lose my arm. My mind was now working overtime, trying to take in what I had been told. I said, “hang on a minute” as I showed Scott a picture of me playing guitar on my phone. “This is what I do.” He took my phone and asked me what sort of music I played, so bizarrely, we sat and chatted about music, and then he assured me he would do the very best to save my arm. We were then introduced to Miss Foong, who would be assisting Scott with the surgery, and a date was then set for August 23rd, 2021.
We then had to tell our family about how bad the outcome could be, but they couldn’t have been any more supportive of myself and Sarah.

Following my operation, I was relieved to find my right arm still there and my hand still functioning. I was told they had removed 2 of the tricep muscles and managed to save my nerves. I left the hospital 5 days later. Following some physiotherapy and help with lymphedema, life was good, and I was back gigging regularly with the band.
Everything was fine over the next 15 months until my arm started to ache, and I got in touch with the ROH. Immediately after I had an MRI, x-ray, PET scan, and biopsy, it was confirmed that I had a recurrence of Sarcoma in my remaining tricep. I knew in my own mind at this point that I was going to lose my arm and that my life was going to change forever.

So I went back to see Scott, and he told me my PET scan was clear and that the cancer was confined to my remaining tricep. As I suspected, the best way to keep me alive would be to lose my arm at the shoulder. Everyone in the room was surprised by my reaction, but I knew what was coming and had already accepted it. A date for the surgery was arranged with Scott and Miss Foong for February 27th, 2023. This left me with about 4 weeks to prepare for life without my right arm. I started to learn how to do everything with my left hand alone. I knew I was going to need an automatic car so I could continue to drive, and within a week, that was sorted.

We had a trip to the Forest of Dean for a short break with family the week before the operation. First thing on Monday, February 27, I was off to ROH for the operation.

Scott arrived to speak to me before I went to the theatre, and we had a good chat. My operation went well, and the care I received from the nursing team and medical staff at ROH was exceptional. By Friday teatime, I was home having a roast dinner.
After 6 weeks, I attended my driving assessment and had the necessary modifications made to my steering wheel, enjoying driving again and getting my freedom back. Not being able to play my guitar was a massive blow, but a friend said, “why don’t you take up the keyboard?” I laughed at first, thinking, “how do you play a keyboard with one hand?” As I had never touched a keyboard in my life, so I thought, “why the hell not?” Within 5 months of losing my arm, I was back on stage with my band. There was no way I was going to sit back and let the loss of my arm beat or define me. To me, everything is about problem solving, and I’ve not lost an arm; I lost cancer.
On my journey, I have met some truly amazing people throughout the NHS. Here’s a list of massive thank-yous. My GP in Worcester, the CT & X Ray department at Kidderminster Hospital, Worcester Royal Hospital, physiotherapy and lymphedema clinics, Redditch Hospital’s MRI department, Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Radiotherapy Department, and ALL staff involved in my care and treatment at Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.

I would particularly like to send a MASSIVE thank you to Mr. Scott Evans and his team. Gabriella Stefan and all the Macmillan nurses, the amazing Miss Foong, and her team. Birmingham Amputee and Rehabilitation Clinic and the Carole Hughes Macmillan support line.

Finally, to my son-in-law Brad, who ran the Manchester Marathon and raised a fantastic £2000 for the Royal Orthopaedic Charity, and to my wonderful wife Sarah and family for all your love and support.

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