A woman fears she may be unable to walk following an aggressive cancer diagnosis – FIVE years after doctors insisted she only had a sports injury.
Valentyna Cartlidge, 34, has had four surgeries on her knee after a running injury in 2015 left her in crippling pain.
But it wasn’t until a second lump was taken out and tested during her last operation that doctors finally told her she had a rare form of soft tissue cancer.
Mother-of-one Valentyna says she could have been diagnosed “a lot earlier” and she now faces not being able to walk again if her stage three cancer spreads any further.
Valentyna said: “It was devastating – I thought this can’t be happening. The first time I heard of a sarcoma was when they read my diagnosis out and I had to go home and Google it.
“I never expected something like that. I just thought it was a small sports injury. I thought I had lived a normal life.”
She added: “For all these years they could not tell me what was wrong with my knee and I have been to see many doctors.
“I haven’t been told whether it has been there all the time but I think it could have been diagnosed a lot earlier.”
Valentyna, who works as a financial analyst, first hurt her knee when she was training in January 2015 for a 10K race in Hull.
She said: “I was running in the park and, at that time, I was running 7K twice a week.
“After one run I sat down to have a drink. Then all of a sudden something clicked inside my knee.
“I thought I must have torn a muscle or something. I tried to go on a run a few weeks later but couldn’t and at that point I went to a GP.”
Seeing a physiotherapist and an MRI scan didn’t help but by now the injury was having a serious effect on her life.
She said: “I couldn’t get up out of my bed in the morning. I couldn’t have a day out and eventually I asked for a second opinion.
“I had the first diagnostic surgery in October 2015 and they thought it might have been a muscle tear.”
Valentyna, from Hull, East Yorks., left her husband Michael, 47, an agricultural technician to travel to Ukraine, where she was born, for another surgery which temporarily eased her pain.
Soon after her surgery in 2017 she found out she was pregnant with her son, Nicholas, who is now two.
She stopped taking her prescribed painkillers while breastfeeding but found the pain debilitating.
She said: “I went to the GP and I thought I was going to lose my leg. It was just a part of me that was dead and I couldn’t move it properly.
“I went to Ukraine again and they saw a lump. They said it was pressing on the nerves in my leg. I had the surgery and started physiotherapy.”
When the cyst was removed from her knee Valentyna thought it was finally “the end of the ordeal”.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I thought that was it.”
But a few months later, once again struggling with overwhelming pain, a fourth surgery in the Ukraine showed the cyst had come back.
The lump was then tested for cancer and, in November 2019, Valentyna was told she had a sarcoma, a rare cancer which makes up only 1.3% of all diagnoses in the UK.
Soft tissue tumours affect the tissues such as fat, muscle, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, tendons and ligaments.
Valentyna travelled to Munich in March this year to receive specialist treatment.
She said: “It was a spontaneous decision because my knee has deteriorated significantly in the last six weeks.
“I needed to act quickly. Once the cancer grows back then I won’t be able to walk. I just bought the ticket and packed my bag.”
Treatment she can receive in Germany includes local hyperthermia and low dose chemotherapy and radiation, but the costs can top £30,000.
After remortgaging her house to pay for the care, Valentyna was convinced by two friends to set up a GoFundMe page and spread the word about the rare cancer.
She said: “Hopefully someone will read it and realise what is going on with their own injury.
“Maybe if I had known that it could have been cancer I would have been diagnosed earlier.”
She has already raised over £5,000 for her life-saving treatment. To donate, visit, https://www.gofundme.com/f/life-saving-cancer-treatment-for-valentyna?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=comms_8gnn+life-saving-cancer-treatment-for-valentyna.
Valentyna moved to Hull from Ukraine when she married Michael in 2007. She studied at Hull University Business School and began work as a financial analyst.