Adam Deans thought he was a bit sore from playing football.
But when the fit 16-year-old broke his femur simply walking down the stairs in 2005, doctors biopsied his leg to discover the bone had been weakened by osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
Less than a month later, Deans’ left leg was amputated above the knee and he began eight months of chemotherapy.
“I didn’t know what it was … to be honest it didn’t really bother me – the word I was fixated on was cancer,” he said.
“I was so tall I couldn’t sit in any of the beds at a children’s hospital, so I was taken to an adult hospital.”
Like Deans, many diagnosed with the disease have never heard of sarcoma even though 15 per cent of paediatric cancers in Australia are sarcomas as well as 10 per cent among youths aged 15 to 25.
Despite this, less than one per cent of the cancer research dollar is spent on sarcoma research.
Fortunately, nine years on and Deans still calls himself not only a cancer survivor, but a sporting champion selected to represent Australia in South Korea at the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation World Championships.
Not everybody diagnosed with the disease is as lucky as Deans: Abbie Basson, who started up Perth-based organisation Sock it to Sarcoma, lost her three-year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2011.
But her work has been carried on by her family, with the organisation holding several public events as part of the inaugural West Australia Sarcoma Awareness Week from June 16 to 21.
Abbie’s mother Mandy urged people, especially youths, not to dismiss symptoms like feeling tired or pain as a sport injury, but to ask their GP to refer them to a primary bone and soft tissue tumour specialist.
“Don’t get it misdiagnosed, put it off as a sport strain or back pain,” she said.
“As a result, the cancer gets the opportunity to spread.”