KZN teen keeps positive while battling rare cancer that took his limb

Samkelo Mzobe (Photo: Supplied)
Samkelo Mzobe (Photo: Supplied)

An active life, hanging out with friends and having the world at his feet, Samkelo Mzobe never imagined that what started off as a minor pain in his knee would result in an amputation. It started as a normal school day and everything was fine until a sharp pain in his right knee caused Sam to lose his balance and slip on the school’s staircase. 

This is his story.

“Everything was going normal I was still walking and doing well at school, and then in the beginning of September 2018 I started to feel pain in my knee. I was going about my normal day at school when I missed a step and landed on my knee. At the time I didn’t think much of it, I brushed it off as a minor injury.

Going into the second or third week of September I started to feel pain in my right knee. The pain wasn’t severe and I was still able to walk but then I started limping. In the following weeks, while at school, I felt the pain getting stronger but I would take pills and it would get better.

As time went on the pain got so bad that I couldn’t put any pressure on my knee – I wasn’t able to walk freely so I started using crutches. It got to a point where I couldn’t lift my leg anymore.

I went to King Edward Hospital [in Durban] because I couldn’t put any pressure on my knee two months after the fall. A doctor examined my knee at the hospital and I also did an X-ray, and they said there was nothing wrong with my knee I just might have pulled a ligament or torn the tissue on the side. The doctor said I should wait three weeks and then I should come back if the pain continued.

I then went to a general practitioner because the pain was so bad. He gave me an injection for the pain and said he might have to put a tube in my knee to check what’s wrong with it.I went back to the state hospital after two weeks because the pain got really bad and I couldn’t even sleep at night. The doctor gave me an injection, they took my blood for testing and they said they were going to come back with the results tomorrow.

That night I was able to sleep for about two to three hours until the pain started again. I woke up at about midnight and went back to the hospital because I couldn’t wait until the morning. When we got to the hospital the doctor gave me another injection, which he said was stronger than the first one and it helped me sleep till the morning. That night we didn’t go back home but slept at the hospital parking lot because we didn’t know what was going on and we worried that if we went back home, the pain might come back.

In the morning we went into the hospital and spoke to a different doctor who told me and my mother that he doesn’t know what is wrong with my knee, but he knows it’s not good. “It’s nasty,” that’s what he said. He then said I would have to go to Albert Luthuli hospital to see a specialist there to determine what was wrong with me.

At Albert Luthuli hospital I underwent many tests including an ultrasound, a CT scan, an MIR, a bone scan, a biopsy and a chest scan all throughout the course of the week.

The last test I did was a biopsy and I had to wait two weeks for the results. That is when I was told that I had High Grade Osteosarcoma [a rare bone tumor that can spread to other parts of the body, and is mostly common in children and teens] and that the only solution was for them to amputate. The doctors said it was in my knee and had also moved on to my lungs – only my lungs, the other bones were clear of the cancer.

On the 22nd of January I had my amputation surgery at Albert Luthuli. I am now waiting to start chemotherapy to treat the lungs which I will be starting on the fifth of March.

”Because of the long waiting lists at state hospitals, Samkelo has had to alternate between using state facilities and going to private practitioners. An ongoing campaign to raise funds for tests and other alternative medicines which will help him with his treatment has been particularly helpful in speeding up his treatment process.

The raised funds have made it possible to cover a R13 000 bill for Sam to undergo a chest biopsy to send his tumor overseas to be tested to determine the best chemotherapy for him. His condition is particularly rare and test results may come back suggesting that there is no chemotherapy that will be able to stop the cancer. Sam and his family are open to treatment suggestions from anyone who may know more about this kind of cancer.

Sam still needs a PET scan to determine whether or not the cancer has spread to other organs in the body and the only date he could get with the state hospital is in April. The GoWhiteForSam Facebook page continues to try raise funds to get him the necessary tests in time and are taking donations from the public.