A brave mother has revealed how she decided to undergo a leg amputation to save her unborn baby after being diagnosed with cancer for the third time.
Kathleen Osborne, 28, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, had no idea she was pregnant when she went for an MRI scan last year after discovering a lump on her right leg.
She was stunned to find out not only had her bone cancer had returned, but she was pregnant and doctors gave her two options – abort her baby so she could start chemotherapy or have her leg amputated.
It took Kathleen one night to make her life-changing decision and at four months pregnant she had her leg amputated.
Tragically – eight weeks before the birth of her daughter Aida-May – an MRI scan revealed cancer on her lungs had returned and was declared terminal.
Kathleen Osborne, 28, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, underwent a leg amputation to save her unborn baby after being diagnosed with cancer for the third time
Tragically – eight weeks before the birth of her daughter – an MRI scan revealed cancer on her lungs had returned and was declared terminal. Kathleen, pictured with her three kids, is currently undergoing chemotherapy
Kathleen’s battle with cancer started when she was just 11, after a painful lump on her right leg turned out to be osteosarcoma in 2005.
She had chemotherapy for the bone cancer and had most of her kneecap removed as well as two metal rods inserted into her leg.
Kathleen was clear of cancer for 11 years and welcomed two sons, Hayden, now nine, and Leo, now five, before she discovered that the cancer had returned in 2016, this time on her lungs.
She said: ‘About three or four months after I had my second son [Leo], I had pain all down my side and I couldn’t move, I was bent over in pain.
Kathleen’s daughter Aida-May was born healthy and happy, eight weeks early, via c-section on March 12, 2021
‘I had a scan after the doctors found fluid on my lungs and that’s where they saw this big mass on my lung which they couldn’t biopsy as it was touching vital organs.
‘It turned out the cancer was back, and within a week, I was back in hospital for chemo.
‘Childhood cancer usually comes back within two or three years, but mine came back after 11. It was really rare, it’s not often they see that so they had to act quickly.’
Thankfully, the chemotherapy managed to shrink the cancer on Kathleen’s lung considerably and doctors only had to remove the lower lobe of her lung.
Kathleen, pictured left while pregnant with her third child, took one night to make her life-changing decision and at four months pregnant she had her leg amputated. She is pictured right in hospital before the procedure
Kathleen was clear of cancer for 11 years and welcomed two sons, Hayden, now nine, and Leo, now five, (pictured with Aida-May) before she discovered that the cancer had returned in 2016, this time on her lungs
She was given the all clear in March 2017 but just three and a half years later, another painful lump on the top of her right leg appeared that left her almost unable to walk.
An MRI scan revealed it was cancer again but also showed a mysterious mass in her pelvis area, leading doctors to give Kathleen a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive.
Kathleen said: ‘That’s how I found out I was pregnant – I had no idea!
‘It was really scary because then I immediately thought I was going to lose my baby. I’d only just found out about her and then I thought I was going to lose her.
Kathleen was given the all clear in March 2017, after her second cancer diagnosis, but just three and a half years later, another painful lump on the top of her right leg (L-R) appeared that left her almost unable to walk
‘The doctors gave me two choices. They said I could either terminate my baby, have chemotherapy, have an operation and most likely lose my leg, or keep my baby and have my leg amputated straight away.
‘They gave me a week to make the decision and told me the sooner I had the surgery, the better.
‘My friend stayed with me that evening and I just cried a lot. I was really worried, I did a lot of crying, and my friend did a lot of crying with me.
‘I thought I’d rather choose to keep my baby and lose my leg. I was probably going to lose my leg anyway so I might as well lose it now and keep my baby.
The amputation initially eradicated the cancer and Kathleen spent the rest of her pregnancy adjusting to life with one leg, using crutches the entire time after refusing a wheelchair
‘I told the doctors the very next day, I said book it in and just do it. There was no point in me having too long to think about it because it would scare me even more.’
Ten days after making the difficult decision, Kathleen underwent surgery on November 17 to have her entire right leg amputated from her pelvis downwards.
What is Osteosarcoma and can it be treated?
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, usually diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.
It occurs when the cells that grow new bone form a cancerous tumour.
The cause of the cancer is unknown but it is thought to be related to rapid bone growth, such as adolescence.
Most tumours usually develop around the knee, either in the lower part of the thighbone or the upper part of the shinbone.
If the cancer has not spread, the long-term survival rate is between 70 and 75 percent.
If osteosarcoma has already spread, such as to the lungs or other bones at diagnosis, the long-term survival rate is about 30 percent.
- Bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects)
- Bone fractures
- Limitation of motion of joints
There are a few treatment options for osteosarcoma.
Often administered before surgery, chemotherapy uses drugs that help shrink and kill cancerous cells. The length of treatment varies and may depend on whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
In most cases, surgeons can save the cancerous limb. The tumour and surrounding bone are removed and the missing bone is replaced with an artificial one.
Sources: Macmillan and Healthline
She spent the first eight days after her amputation unable to look down at her remaining leg as she struggled to comprehend what had happened.
She said: ‘It was really hard. Towards the end of the eight days, I did glance down but it was really weird looking at the blanket on top of me.
‘I could see one heap where my leg was and then nothing next to it.
‘I really struggled to look down at it, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
‘I had to tell my boys before the surgery that my leg was being amputated, but I did it in a fun way to keep them from being scared or worried.
‘They love Transformers so I said I had something bad in my leg and that the doctors needed to take it away but that Transformers were going to make me a new leg.
‘They were like ‘really?! That’s really cool!’ and then they loved it! It was the only way I could think of how to tell them so I’ve just kept that story going.’
The amputation eradicated the cancer and Kathleen spent the rest of her pregnancy adjusting to life with one leg, using crutches the entire time after refusing a wheelchair.
Sadly, she still had to give birth eight weeks early after an MRI scan revealed cancer on her lungs had returned.
Kathleen said: ‘They only gave me two days to prepare for giving birth to her – I thought I had eight weeks and then suddenly I only had two days which was scary!
‘I was scared I was going to lose her because I was having her so early. I was worrying about how well she’d be and how big she’d be.
‘Those two days were awful. All these things were running through my head about her and then about me being diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time as well.’
Thankfully, Kathleen’s daughter Aida-May is now a healthy and happy little girl after being born eight weeks early via a c-section on March 12.
With Kathleen’s fourth cancer now declared inoperable and terminal, she’s now doing all she can to make memories with her three kids whilst undergoing chemotherapy to give her more time with them.
Kathleen said: ‘We’ve got a little holiday booked for next month and I’ve made a Crowdfunding page to try and raise money so I can make as many memories with the kids as possible.
‘That’s my only focus now – making memories with my children. I don’t know how long I have left, it could be years, it could be just months.
‘I just want to do as many things as they want to do. They really want to go to Disneyland which we can’t do yet due to Covid-19 but hopefully we can in the future.
‘My focus is just doing as much with my kids as possible. It’s just them, I don’t really care about my dreams any more.
With Kathleen’s fourth cancer now declared inoperable and terminal, she’s now doing all she can to make memories with her three kids whilst undergoing chemotherapy to give her more time with them. Kathleen is pictured kissing newborn Aida-May
‘As long as they have memories with me and they have as much fun with me as possible over however long we’ve got, then I’m happy.
‘I can go then, as long as they’re happy.’
Despite her terminal diagnosis, Kathleen said she does not regret amputating her leg.
She explained: ‘I’m happy I made the decision to lose my leg because it gave me my daughter.
‘If I’d not had my leg amputated then, I’d have lost her and I’d have been going through chemotherapy which might not even have saved my leg in the end anyway.
‘I wouldn’t have her if I didn’t do it so it’s all been worth it. I’d always wanted a little girl after having my two boys first and now she’s here so I’m happy I did it.
‘They’d also always wanted a sister so it’s worked out for the best, to be honest. I’m still very happy with my decision.’