Fit young South Yorkshire powerlifter spends 20th birthday in Barnsley hospital after devastating rare cancer diagnosis

A 'fit young lad' who was about to start college had his life turned upside down after being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer at just 20.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 12:30 pm
Brandon Hackett, who has been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, with his girlfriend, Paige Connah

Brandon Hackett, from Barnsley, was preparing to start a personal training course at college when he received the devastating diagnosis that he had Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

The 20-year-old, who had been working in JD Sports ahead of starting his course, first went to the doctors with back pain in August and was told he had probably pulled a muscle from his work in the gym.

His mother, Clare, said they had assumed the same thing as Brandon is a "fit, young lad" who does a lot of power lifting.

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Brandon will now have to go through chemotherapy to treat the cancer

After taking painkillers and trying to treat the issue with heat and cold, things got worse for Brandon. He began getting pins and needles in his legs and being unsteady on his feet. After a number of weeks trying to deal with the pain, visiting doctors and A&E, he visited Barnsley Hospital for a second time, where he was referred to Sheffield Northern General.

There, a growth was discovered around his spine and he was told there was a one per cent chance it would be Ewing sarcoma. If it wasn't, the then-19-year-old and his family were told to "prepare themselves for the worst".

Miss Hackett added: "They said if it wasn't Ewing sarcoma then they didn't know what it was, and they would have to try different treatments and see if any worked."

Less than 100 people are diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma every year in the UK, and despite being rare, it is the second most common bone cancer for people aged between 10 and 20.

Brandon Hackett was in hospital for his 20th birthday

Miss Hackett said: "He was in hospital for three weeks and they did emergency surgery to relieve the pressure around his spine because he couldn't walk. He was hoping he would be able to get out for his 20th birthday but his legs had started to give way again.

"We were referred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham and they said they did different tests and thought that it was Ewings."

Brandon, who has five step siblings, was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for emergency chemotherapy, and will now make the journey to the hospital for treatment every two weeks.

In the meantime, he has moved in with his father, Leon, where it is easier for him to get around the house in a wheelchair.

Miss Hackett added: "It was devastating for everyone - not just me but siblings, grandparents and friends. I took a month off work just to be with him in the hospital. His girlfriend, Paige, has been amazing. She works with me and she has taken time off to be with him and look after him.

"It's something you never expect your own child to have to go through. He has felt better after having the chemotherapy but then he is very tired, and just wants to sleep."

His family are now fundraising to support Brandon and his girlfriend Paige, as they are both unable to work for the foreseeable future, as he begins his chemotherapy. The money will be spent on any equipment or treatment Brandon will need to buy to help his recovery.

Any extra money will be donated to the Yorkshire-based Bone Cancer Research Trust, which also provides support and information for those affected by bone cancer.

The charity says due to a lack of research funding and new treatment development, survival rates for Ewing sarcoma have seen no significant improvement for over 30 years.

Mat Cottle-Shaw, head of fundraising and communication at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, who is also from Barnsley and lost his father to Ewing sarcoma in 1997, said:“Our best wishes go out to Brandon and all his family as he goes through this difficult journey. Like all primary bone cancers, Ewing sarcoma is a cruel and brutal cancer for any patient to face. For too long, Ewing sarcoma has been an underfunded and under profiled form of cancer.

"Our research is at the forefront of increasing our understanding of this disease and we have several pioneering new potential treatments in development that are so desperately needed by patients just like Brandon.

"Our ground-breaking research is at the forefront of new treatment development and is increasing our understanding of the disease every day.

"For patients and families facing the disease now, our free support and information service is available, providing financial help and dedicated information and support how and when patients need it throughout their journey. And our awareness work is building more of an understanding amongst the public and healthcare professionals to improve understanding of the signs and symptoms to improve speed of diagnosis and patient outcomes.”