Five years cancer-free, and counting

2016-10-25 06:00
 Photo: supplied Emma-Liegh Riggien in hospital.

Photo: supplied Emma-Liegh Riggien in hospital.

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AT 14 Emma-Liegh Riggien was in the prime of her life. She had just begun high school. She was in Grade 8, and her goals were falling into place.

However, Riggien was ill and after many visits to the doctor and 18 months of wrong diagnosis she was diagnosed on 13 November, 2009 with synovial sarcoma in her left elbow.

“My cancer was stage 4 only because my tumour had started spreading, but luckily hadn’t attached itself to any organs. The surgeon immediately said amputate, however, my family opted not to. I was only 15 and in Grade 9.

“I started chemo in the December [2009]. I did three sets of chemo first. Four days in the rooms and I was allowed to go home and had a two week break and then went back for round two, the same as round one, and the same for round three,” she said.

Riggien was given injections every four days to increase her white blood cells every round. She then did six weeks of radiation.

“The chemo and radiation was done to shrink the tumour and save my arm, however, the tumour didn’t shrink as much as we had hoped, and that’s when I flew to Cape Town and had an elbow replacement and the tumour was removed in that surgery in May 2010.

“I now have titanium in my arm. Because the tumour had wrapped itself around my nerves and muscles, doctors had to remove my radial nerve and the main muscle. I had to have a contraption on my hand for about eight months.”

When she returned home she underwent another three sets of chemo to make sure she was rid of all the cancer.

In 2011 she went back to Cape Town and had tendons in her wrist moved around so that she could move her hand. In total she had five surgeries.

During that period Riggien lost her hair twice, missed six months of school in 2010, but with a lot of hard work she persevered and matriculated.

She was put in remission on 18 November, 2010.

“I am now five years in remission, going onto six, and haven’t had any problems since,” said Riggien.

When she was in hospital her family never had support from any charity and this inspired her mom to join Rainbows and Smiles, an NPO and PBO, two years ago.

“Their aim is to make life happier and easier for the families. Rainbows and Smiles supplies food vouchers, presents, transport fees and even pays medical bills on occasion and I hope people can support this lovely cause.

“What better way to give back than to support those in need.

“As a survivor of childhood cancer any support is essential in providing hope, so I urge people to support this lovely cause,” she said.

A synovial sarcoma (also known as malignant synovioma) is a rare form of cancer which usually occurs near to the joints of the arm, neck or leg. It is one of the soft tissue sarcomas. It is one of the rarest forms of soft tissue cancer in the world.

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