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LUCKY BREAK

My girl, 13, fell at the funfair and broke her leg – but an X-ray showed she had cancer and now it’s been amputated

A MUM has told how her daughter broke her leg stumbling from a fairground ride - only for stunned doctors who were examining her x-rays  to discover she had a rare type of cancer.

Chardonnay Rawcliffe-Roberts, 13, was suffering from Ewing's Sarcoma, which affects the bone and soft tissue surrounding it, and found out after she fell from the rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach last February.

 Brave Chardonnay in hospital - she has a broken leg to thanks for her cancer being detected in time
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Brave Chardonnay in hospital - she has a broken leg to thanks for her cancer being detected in timeCredit: Focus Features

The cancer is notoriously difficult to detect so it was sheer luck Chardonnay broke her leg and doctors spotted it.

Although her mum, single Liz, 33, from Accrington, Lancashire, understandably didn't feel like that at the beginning. She said: “I was heartbroken.

“One minute she was laughing and joking on a fairground ride the next we were being told she would lose her leg."

Chardonnay had experienced pain in the months before falling from the ride, but it wasn't thought to be anything sinister.

 Chardonnay pictured with her worried mum Liz
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Chardonnay pictured with her worried mum LizCredit: Focus Features

At a football match in January this year, the month before she snapped her leg, she complained of pain but this was attributed to her previously falling over.

Thinking her daughter just had a minor injury Liz, a charity shop volunteer, agreed to a February half-term treat to Blackpool, with Chardonnay’s dad and her former partner, Paul Roberts, 47.

Liz said: “Blackpool is one of our favourite places, Chardonnay loves the Pleasure Beach and so we were really looking forward to the trip.”

The holiday began well but on the second day, as Chardonnay went down a step onto a fairground ride, she tripped and broke her left leg.

Liz explained: “We knew it was a bad break, Chardonnay was in a lot of pain and she was crying. I couldn’t understand why her leg had broken so easily, from a simple stumble.”

 Chardonnay has now had her leg amputated in a bid to stop the cancer
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Chardonnay has now had her leg amputated in a bid to stop the cancerCredit: Focus Features

The teenager was taken by ambulance to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

But scans showed a separate problem and Chardonnay was sent for further tests. She was then transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital – and diagnosed with cancer.

Liz says: “We were in complete shock. We thought Chardonnay was being treated for a broken leg. The diagnosis came out of nowhere.

“Chardonnay is really bubbly and a tomboy, she likes riding her bike and she loves football. She is always out with her friends.

“But she has been absolutely amazing – so courageous and positive."

 Chardonnay, pictured with her proud parents
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Chardonnay, pictured with her proud parentsCredit: Focus Features

After more tests Chardonnay was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and doctors began treatment, with a plaster cast and chemotherapy.

Liz said: “It was a difficult time. We were a long way from home, I had to give up my job, and we felt so isolated.

“Our friends began fundraising back at home to help with our costs, which was very kind.

"But Chardonnay was stuck in bed or in a wheelchair for months on end, and for such an active girl, it drove her mad.

“She was in horrendous pain too, pretty much all the time.”

 Chardonnay, pictured outside hospital with mum and dad
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Chardonnay, pictured outside hospital with mum and dadCredit: Focus Features

In May, doctors gave the family a choice.

Liz says: “They explained they could leave her with her leg, but with no function. They offered an amputation – which would take away the pain.

“The way Chardonnay saw it, getting rid of her leg would allow her to walk and play football again.

“She said to me: ‘My leg’s no use any way.’

“I was amazed at her maturity and bravery. I let her make the decision. We had lots of tears and heartache, but she was certain it was the right thing to do.”

What is Ewing's Sarcoma?

EWING’S sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that typically affects the bones and the tissues around the bones of young people and children.

The condition was responsible for the death of 27-year-old Holly Butcher, who penned an emotional letter before she died reminding people to cherish their life.

It's more common in males and mainly affects children and young people aged from 10 to 20.

The main areas affected by Ewing’s sarcoma are the legs (around the knees), pelvis, arms, ribs and spine.

As the condition is so rare and can often require complicated treatment, you may be referred to a specialist team for your care.

Symptoms include bone pain, which may get worse over time and at night, a tender lump or swelling and a high temperature that doesn't go away.

Sufferers may also feel tired all the time and experience weight loss.

As bones tend to be weaker, they are susceptible to breakage, with many people being diagnosed after a fracture.

Several tests are needed to find out which areas of the body are affected, including X-rays, blood tests, an MRI scan, a CT scan or a PET scan.

Treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy (where medicine kills cancer cells), radiotherapy (where radiation is used to kill cells) or surgery to remove the affected area.

Many people have chemotherapy to shrink the cancer, followed by surgery to remove the majority of the affected cells, followed by further chemotherapy to remove leftover cells.

More than half of people diagnosed with the cancer live at least five years after being diagnosed, but the outlook depends on the individual case.

Cancer can often return after treatment, so regular check-ups will be required.

Sarcoma UK runs a support line for people living with, or who are affected by, all forms of sarcoma including Ewing's.

Chardonnay had her leg amputated in August this year and the surgery went well. She is now home and earlier this month, she stood for the first time and is now learning to walk again.

Next month, she hopes to have a prosthetic leg fitted.

Liz says: “Watching her stand up and take the first steps, without her leg, was so emotional. I filmed it and watch it over and over and I am so proud. For me, it’s like she has won an Olympic gold medal.
“She can’t wait to get back to running around and playing football again. And I know she will do it. She has more determination than all those top athletes put together.

"I am just so proud of her – she’s been through an incredible ordeal for a young girl and yet she always has a smile on her face.”

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