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Cullingworth teenager Francesca tells of cancer trauma
A 13-year-old Cullingworth girl has spoken of her battle against bone cancer to highlight the lack of awareness and understanding of the disease.
More than 450 people – mainly children and young adults – are diagnosed with primary bone cancer each year and only half of those will survive the first five years.
Unlike other cancers, survival rates among primary bone cancer sufferers haven’t improved in the past 20 years.
The Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT), has been running Bone Cancer Awareness Week this week to highlight the need for further research into potentially life-saving treatments.
Francesca Haigh was inspired to speak out after losing her friend Zack to the disease last year. Since then she has raised £2,500 for the BCRT and also raised awareness by speaking about her illness in school – being awarded a Princess Diana Courageous Citizen Award for her efforts.
Francesca was a seven-year-old pupil at Cullingworth Primary School when she started getting pains in her left leg, which were diagnosed as osteosarcoma.
The treatment that followed included eight months of chemotherapy and surgery to replace her knee and half her femur with a titanium rod.
“So I was part bionic woman, which made me smile,” said Francesca, who had her treatment alongside Zack, who lost his fight against the disease last year.
“Zack always found time to make people aware of this disease and raise money at the same time, so I thought why can’t I? I can carry on his spirit and make him proud,” said Francesca.
Since then Francesca had given presentations at her school, Skipton Girls’ High School, and baked hundreds of gingerbread biscuits to raise money.
Outside of school she has set up a cupcake business called Delicate Delights which donates to BCRT every year. She has also spoken at the BCRT’s national conference in Oxford.
Her next fundraising idea is to organise a concert in Skipton and she is in discussions with the local council.
“I hope people who have read this realise how amazing BCRT are and how important they are. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
Francesca’s dad, Christopher Burke, 38, watch commander at Idle Fire Station, said: “The treatment was hard on Francesca but she never let it get her down. We are so fortunate and grateful that the treatment was successful as the mortality rates for this condition are very bad.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to all the medical staff that have and continue to look after Francesca. She still faces further surgery in the upcoming years but hopefully the future will be much brighter for us.”