KING’S LYNN: Inspirational Jess uses football background to battle rare cancer
A sunny attitude and a sporting background have helped an inspirational teenager in her two-year battle against a rare form of cancer.
Jessika-Mae Prior, known as Jess, will turn 18 next week but has had to grow up quickly after being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma.
The disease, a rare type of bone cancer affects fewer than 30 children a year in the UK and is mostly common in boys.
Jess lost her hair and was left weak after gruelling chemotherapy sessions to shrink a large tumour but retained a positive attitude throughout.
Her health problems are a far cry from the sporty youngster who played football and practiced martial arts prior to her diagnosis in September 2011, when a tumour was found to be running from her knee to pelvis.
But that has now halved in size and Jess is no longer receiving chemotherapy treatment as it is thought to be stable.
Jess, of Browning Place, North Lynn, said: “You have to stay positive, keep smiling and remember that people are there to help you.
“I have never ever asked ‘Am I going to die’ and always looked forward.
“My sporting background has helped. If you go in feeling like you are going to lose then you will.
“But if you feel like you are going to win then there is a chance you will.”
Jess first began to suffer knee pain in 2010 and said it took 18 months for the problem to be diagnosed.
During that period, she fought through the pain to sit her GCSEs and even achieved the Springwood High School 100 metre sprint record.
She was sent for an x-ray after a lump appeared on her left thigh and was then referred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham for a biopsy, which confirmed that Jess had Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Jess said: “I was gob smacked as you don’t think this is going to happen to you, especially at such a young age.
“It took a few days to sink in but once it had I just got on with it and never looked back.”
Within weeks, Jess was in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, to start an intensive six-month course of chemotherapy.
Every three weeks, Jess would spend her Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in hospital.
This was reduced to two nights during the second course. She also had radiotherapy and will be returning to hospital later this year for a scan.
She said some of the worst aspects of the treatment were missing out on sport and social events.
She added: “The hardest part of chemo was losing my hair. I had 10 wigs.
“I miss football. I played midfield for the Discovery team for two years.”
Jess advises other sufferers to stay positive and have goals to work towards.
Last year she realised an ambition to meet pop star Jessie J.
She has thanked all those who have supported her through the battle, especially her mum Sharon.
Jess said: “Mum was amazing. She has been so strong for me and I can’t imagine what it was like for her.”
Sharon has praised her daughter. She said: “I am so proud. Whatever hits her, she just gets on with it.”
Generous West Norfolk has rallied around to raise £1,065 in three hours to pay for a specialist bed for Jess.
The 17-year-old has thanked everyone who donated money with King’s Lynn Mobility Centre, in Blackfriars Street, to buy a specialist bed to help her sleep after weeks of pain.
Jess is suffering bad back from leaning to the right to take the pressure off her left leg.
But within hours of an appeal being placed on Facebook on Saturday, shop staff were delivering the bed, which was offered at a reduced price, to Jess.
Steve Kirman, a partner in the business with Neville Burt, said: “The phone was red hot - it did not stop ringing.
“We had 48 people make donations - even one from Greece.
“It was an absolutely amazing response.”
Jess says the bed has made a big difference to her.
She said: “This makes you realise that people do care and that there are some really nice people about.
“It is amazing to have this.”
Hughes Electrical, in Norfolk Street, have also agreed to donate a television to help Jess.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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