Shining a light on silent killer

PLC registrar Francesca Nelson, Sock it to Sarcoma founder Mandy Basson and PLC student Olivia Jurat.
PLC registrar Francesca Nelson, Sock it to Sarcoma founder Mandy Basson and PLC student Olivia Jurat.

Like many, the 49-year-old was unfamiliar with the rare and extremely aggressive cancer silently spreading through her body like ‘wildfire’.

Last September, Ms Nelson discovered a pea-sized lump, which a biopsy revealed to be an epithelioid sarcoma ” a rare soft tissue tumour. Her doctor told her there was very little information on sarcoma, which commonly targets adolescents and young adults, suggesting a resection of the area to remove the cancer.

‘I didn’t feel like I was in control ” it felt like I was being rushed,’ Ms Nelson said.

During an internet search, Ms Nelson came across Sock it to Sarcoma, a foundation set up by Steve and Mandy Basson, whose daughter Abbie died in August 2011 shortly after her 20th birthday from Ewing’s sarcoma.

Mrs Basson said her daughter was diagnosed with sarcoma four weeks after she felt major symptoms in April 2009, but by then it had metastasized, giving her a 20 to 30 per cent chance of survival.

‘It was easier to say what the cancer wasn’t in than what it was in, because it was all through her skeleton, lungs, nodes and all the rest of it,’ Mrs Basson said.

Over the past three years, 690 new cases of sarcoma have been diagnosed in WA.

There is no specialist clinical nurse for sarcoma patients in the state.

Ms Nelson sought treatment with leading sarcoma surgeon David Cheong at the Moffitt Cancer Centre but scans revealed the sarcoma was worse than thought and surgery no longer an option.

She began chemotherapy the day after Christmas and is currently waiting on the results of her treatment.

As a former PLC student, Ms Nelson reached out to her old house of Ferguson, which raised $750 for the foundation.

Ferguson house captain Olivia Jurat (17) said learning about Abbie’s story had changed the way she and other students treated their bodies.

Mrs Basson said she wanted any young person who felt a lump or a pain that did not disappear within three weeks to be referred to a specialist. Visit www.sockittosarcoma.org.au.