A teenager with a rare cancer in his leg just completed the London Marathon almost a year to the day after his diagnosis, proving wrong the kids who made fun of his limp.
Ben Cowdry was 17-years-old when doctors realised he’d been suffering with an incredibly painful rare form of cancer in his knee, called ossifying synovial sarcoma, for the previous five years. He got the all clear in March.
Just a month later he crossed the finish line of the London marathon after the likes of Mo Farah:
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Ben told UNILAD:
The marathon falls pretty much a year to the day to when I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 17.
When I first got diagnosed I was shocked, but also surprised I wasn’t too emotional. I don’t think I really cried until a couple of weeks afterwards – I suppose that’s when it hit me.
I always assumed cancer was really rare in young people. In my mind I thought, ‘Oh I’ll never get cancer’, and then it happened and there was nothing I could do about it.
Except Ben did do something about it. After visiting four physiotherapists, the pain caused by the growth in his leg became so severe, Ben went to see a doctor.
Ben, whose sense of humour is intact, recalled the pain:
It was a difficult pain to describe, as there was nothing quite like it. I guess if I had to explain it would be like someone slicing through a nerve and to put it into context it was probably just as bad as being kicked in the balls but more intense!
The extreme pain only came on when pressure was applied to the area but there was a general tingling pain which I seemed to constantly have, but that wasn’t too bad.
Ben also suffered muscle wasting with his right leg, he said, noting ‘on the leg press machine in the gym I could hardly lift 20kg with the affected leg whereas the other could lift about 100kg’.
Ben recalls how some of his friends misunderstood the pain he was experiencing prior to diagnosis.
The Devonshire teen told UNILAD:
When I was running they would sometimes laugh and they didn’t understand why I was so slow and limping. They’d make small comments or refer to me as ‘The Knee’.
People would call me a hypochondriac as well because of the way the pain would come on when the slightest bit of force was applied, which they couldn’t understand.
?It’s Race Week!?
— London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) April 16, 2018
He said the name calling didn’t bother him. He ‘would go along with it and laugh with them’ as ‘they weren’t to know’, forgiving them after the kids involved expressed regret upon discovering his diagnosis.
Ben recalled two specific incidents of bullying, recounting:
One day my friends were trying to chuck a tennis ball at my leg which I did find rather annoying and very painful when they hit the right area.
If I remember rightly I just walked off that day because I didn’t feel it was fair on me. Another time someone purposely tripped me up in P.E. with the intentions of causing me pain.
When the pain became unbearable, surgeons ‘reluctantly’ agreed to operate on the growth and sent it off for a biopsy after Ben re-referred himself to hospital.
Despite having ruled it out with previous scans, the doctors then told Ben he did in fact have cancer, a form of which there’s only ever been 50 documented cases.
After two operations and a six-week course of radiotherapy, which left Ben exhausted and wheelchair bound before completion in October, he decided he wanted to give back to the Teenage Cancer Trust nurses who helped him and his family through the hard times.
Teenage Cancer Trust are the only UK charity providing specialised nursing and emotional support to young people with cancer, but right now we don’t have enough nurses to do so. Please donate today to help every young person get the specialised nursing they desperately need. All this week @aldiuk are matching your text donations up to £5,000 per night so your support can go even further. #teenagecancertrust
Ben thanked his nurses, who made cancer feel ‘a bit more normal’, adding:
When I was first diagnosed a Specialist Nurse from Teenage Cancer Trust invited my family to see her. We could ask her any question we wanted and if she didn’t know any answers she’d go and find them out for us.
This certainly meant we had less to worry about.
During my radiotherapy the Teenage Cancer Trust Specialist Nurse in Exeter would sit with me most days while I waited for my treatment. It was nice to have a familiar face and we’d talk about almost anything.
So the already sporty teen – who had to stop playing football due to the pain in his knee and was angry to miss a whole season of cricket due to radiotherapy – decided to sign up to the London marathon.
Even though he still has odd numb sensations in the affected area, Ben told UNILAD training had gone really well and he was aiming for a time of under four hours.
…All with ‘a few torn tendons in [his] ankle’ which he said were ‘manageable’. No big deal.
Now Ben is taking a much-deserved break before getting back on his beloved bikes and he’s got his sights set on a triathlon. Best of luck to you, Ben!
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.