Tuddenham: ‘Mild’ injury turned out to be rare cancer

Alistair Wheeler and girlfriend Hettie Hickling

Alistair Wheeler and girlfriend Hettie Hickling - Credit: Archant

ALISTAIR Wheeler’s life was turned upside down six months ago when an innocuous-looking lump on his foot was diagnosed as cancer.

Superhero Dentists at Tuddenham Road Dental Practice, Ipswich fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Superhero Dentists at Tuddenham Road Dental Practice, Ipswich fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust. - Credit: Archant

The 24-year-old was told he had terminal rhabdomyosarcoma after a series of tests and scans with hospital specialists.

Mr Wheeler, who lives in Tuddenham, said: “I first noticed a slight discomfort in my foot around July last year, but it was only mild.

“I went to the doctors but there was nothing obvious-looking and I was advised to get an inner sole for my shoe.

“Some people in my situation would look back and think ‘why didn’t the GP do X, Y or Z or follow it up?’ but since learning how rare the cancer is, it would be pretty unfair for me to complain.”

A few months later Mr Wheeler fell while on a night out and broke a bone in his foot. He was referred to an orthopaedic specialist at Ipswich Hospital because the swelling increased and an MRI gave the first indication that it could be cancer.

“I was told it was an aggressive cancer and I’d need chemotherapy,” he said.

Most Read

“When I first found out it was cancer, I couldn’t really take it seriously. It all seemed a bit of a joke as something about it being in my foot made it a little absurd.”

Soon he was told the cancer had spread. Having received the devastating diagnosis and the news that he had only months to live, Mr Wheeler had to deal with breaking it to his parents.

“When my parents arrived at the hospital, I said ‘there’s no easy way to say this but the cancer has spread’ and I told them what I could expect.

“Since then, and having had the side-effects from chemo, it’s taken a bit more of a toll on me than I had expected.

“Even though at the time I was pretty straight down the line about it to my parents and my brother, it has become more difficult to deal with as time’s gone on.

“I was a bit naive as to how I thought I was going to tackle it.”

A gruelling course of chemotherapy was started straightaway followed by radiotherapy treatment which began a fortnight ago.

Throughout his treatment, Mr Wheeler has spent time on a ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

He said his ordeal had been improved because of the support and facilities on the ward for patients aged 13 to 24.

Alistair also thanked his parents, brother Cameron and girlfriend Hettie Hickling for their support.

Mr Wheeler’s mother Ros said: “When we first knew that it was a malignant tumour that was bad enough, but we always felt there was hope that it could be treated.

“It was devastating to learn that the cancer was terminal and we still can’t quite believe it now,” she added. “We just want Alistair to relax and enjoy that time and forget about his treatment.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter