A 19-year-old woman has revealed she was just four when a routine biopsy on a lump on her back left her paralysed.
Nicole Biddulph, of Devon, developed the golf ball-sized lump in May 2003 at three years old.
During a biopsy to check if the growth was cancerous, doctors accidentally severed her spinal cord, which the fibrosarcoma tumour was wrapped around.
Left permanently paralysed from the waist down, Miss Biddulph was then forced to endure four months of chemo and 30 sessions of radiotherapy, which caused her to vomit and lose her hair.
Since beating the disease, Miss Biddulph, now a student, refuses to left her immobility hold her back despite suffering shooting pains down her spine and cruel stares from strangers.
Fibrosarcoma is a cancerous tumour that starts in cells called fibrocytes, which make connective tissue. The tumours usually develop in the arms, legs or pelvis.
It is unclear how common fibrosarcoma is, however, soft tissue sarcoma – a form of the disease – affects around 3,270 new people every year in the UK, according to Cancer Research.
In the US, 13,040 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma are diagnosed annually, American Cancer Society statistics show.
Speaking of her tumour, Miss Biddulph said: ‘My parents first noticed a lump on my back one day in May 2003 when was I was only three.
‘It looked like a golf ball under my skin, so an MRI was done in September 2003 after an X-ray and ultrasound came back inconclusive.
‘The MRI showed a large mass surrounding my spine.
‘After looking at the results from the MRI, I was sent for a biopsy because they wanted to find out what the mass was.
‘It didn’t go to plan and I ended up being paralysed from the waist down.’
As well as being forced to come to terms with her immobility, Miss Biddulph also had to undergo grueling treatment for her fibrosarcoma.
‘I was very ill and placed in critical care,’ she said. ‘All I remember about being in hospital was throwing up constantly.
‘The chemotherapy was really strong and intense, and it pretty much damaged my immune system and my hair fell out.
‘The radiotherapy was quite uncomfortable too because I had to lie on a hard surface for quite a long time during each session.
‘I kept being sick and couldn’t keep anything down, so I had to have a nose tube fitted to feed me.
‘The feeling of it going through your nose and down to your stomach was the worst thing ever.’
Although extremely unpleasant, the treatment worked, with Miss Biddulph being declared cancer-free a few years later.
While it was a relief to no longer be battling the disease, Miss Biddulph was still immobile.