A TEAM of clinicians at Newcastle Hospitals have successfully removed a rare tumour from a Middlesbrough schoolgirl during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Ruby Wilson, who turned 11 in November, was diagnosed with mesenchymal chondrosarcoma – a rare cancer that can be cured if removed, but is fatal without removal – in February.
Her mam, Sarah, said: “Ruby was doing her normal five days football training when one night she complained of pain in her shoulder.
“She was in the bath, so I had a look and could see a lump protruding between her shoulder blades.
“I thought I had better get it checked out so I booked an appointment with the GP, who sent us to the Friarage Hospital for an MRI scan. There doctors took me and my mam into a separate room and told us that it looked like Ruby had a malignant tumour.
“We were sent to Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital for further tests and Ruby had a biopsy and right there – our world fell apart.”
The tumour which started at the ribs and extended through most of the right side of the chest also covered the spine and compressed the heart and soft tissues in the chest.
Ruby’s parents were given a 50 per cent chance that she would survive surgery, or be left with severe complications after the surgery. However, leaving the tumour would be fatal.
Quentin Campbell Hewson, Ruby’s oncologist, said: “We knew that not removing the tumour would mean that Ruby would not survive. However, we also knew how difficult the surgical removal would be and that there was likelihood that Ruby would not survive, or the operation would result in severe complication.
“Decisions like these are never taken lightly and the decision to proceed to the surgical procedures was taken in a very considered and balanced way involving the entire treating team, the family and national and international colleagues.
“The surgeons involved had to proceed mindful that an incomplete removal of the tumour with severe complications was a possible outcome.”
Using a 3D printed model of reconstruction of the tumour, a team of heart and lung surgeons, plastic surgeons, a spinal orthopaedic surgeon, a children’s surgeon and specialist anaesthetists, carried out two main surgical procedures to remove the tumour, and reconstruct the chest wall where parts of the tumour were removed.
Sarah added: “She is so strong and determined. She absolutely loves playing football, and the first thing she asked was ‘will I be able to play football again?’ She used the goal of getting back to do football to power her through all this.
“Even after her surgery and she was in her wheelchair she said ‘can I just try and see if I can?’ the physios are amazed by her – everyone has been.”
The first procedure was carried out at the Freeman hospital to remove part of the tumour, with the final removal plastic surgery reconstruction carried out at the RVI.
Successful removal of the tumour and completion of chemotherapy means that Ruby is now in remission, and this week she rang the bell to signify the end of her cancer treatment.