A woman who felt a ‘niggling pain’ in her leg was left devastated after being told she had ‘incurable’ cancer. Jo Hodkinson noticed the ache while out on her walks with her pet dog Elvis, which prompted her to visit the doctors.
The 48-year-old accountant was given the devastating diagnosis that the breast cancer that she had been treated for 10 years ago had returned to her hip, thigh and pelvic bones.
She has had to undergo major surgery that would leave her in a wheelchair. Speaking about her diagnosis, she said: “It was pretty much a decade to the day since I had finished my treatment for breast cancer. In spring 2011 I had a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“I had taken tamoxifen (hormone therapy for breast cancer) for a decade and felt like I’d made it. But you couldn’t write it, the timing was unreal.
“I just felt numb when I was told that the niggling pain in my leg was cancer. I couldn’t believe it because it didn’t even hurt that much at the time, but my bones were literally crumbling, and it was in my lymph nodes.
“I was told I needed a major operation and I’d be in a wheelchair for a little while at least. I felt like my life was over if I couldn’t walk Elvis again.”
In May 2021, Jo, from Mossley, Tameside, was admitted for surgery at The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, in Birmingham and due to Covid restrictions at the time she couldn’t have any visitors.
It was around the same time when she was warned it was likely she would always walk with a limp. The operation involved a proximal femoral endoprosthetic replacement – which replaces the hip joint and a section of the top end of the thigh bone, followed by months of physiotherapy.
Jo added: “The surgery was horrific and being totally alone made it even harder to come to terms with the diagnosis. But my lovely old school friends, some that I’m not even in touch with anymore, sent me a gift for every day I was in hospital, it was incredible.
“When I came home, I started physio straight away, I had to learn to walk again and try to get mobile. But I just knew it wasn’t enough and I didn’t have anywhere near enough muscle strength to walk Elvis, so I got a personal trainer.
“Despite what I’d been told, I was determined that we would go on our walks again, I just had to find a way of getting stronger again. Elvis was my biggest motivation, he helped me so much.”
Remarkably, after a gruelling six months of training, Jo and Elvis were back doing their favourite 2.7 mile walk around their local reservoir, something Jo feared wouldn’t ever be possible again.
She added: “I am so happy that we can do our walks again now, I cried the very first time we went the whole way around the reservoir. We were told that our favourite walk would be a struggle to achieve at all and now we are doing it regularly. And while I won’t be able to go far or fast, I’m delighted with how far we’ve come.”
On Sunday, Jo will be Cancer Research UK’s VIP guest of honour when she will sound the starter horn as she takes part in the Race for Life 5k event at Heaton Park with Elvis by her side.
Every year around 44,900 people are diagnosed with cancer in the North West and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime. Money raised at Race for Life enables scientists to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – helping to save more lives.
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
The Race for Life events at Heaton Park, Prestwich on July 16 and 17 are open to people of all ages and abilities. Women, men, and children can choose from 3k, 5k and 10k events. There is also a chance to take part in Pretty Muddy, a mud-splattered obstacle course and there’s a Pretty Muddy Kids option.
While Jo’s cancer cannot be cured, she is now on her tenth cycle of targeted therapy, she added: “The remaining tumours are shrinking with each cycle of therapy, last time I had a scan in March they said they were too small to measure, and I’ll just stay on these tablets until they don’t work anymore.
“I feel an urgency to do fun things while I am feeling good. I have just got back from a three-week road trip to Texus with my friend Aimee, she was the first person I told that I had cancer. And now I am really looking forward to doing Race for Life with Elvis, he’ll love it.”
“I feel good at the moment, so I am doing as much as a can while I am feeling so well. It’s thanks to research that I am where I am today, so join me and sign up for Race For Life and we can try and beat cancer together.”
Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the North West, Jemma Humphreys, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Jo for her support. Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way.
“Whether people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with cancer, or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life. So we’re asking people across the region: “Who will you Race for?”
“Our Race for Life events are open to all. For some people, the Race for Life is literally a walk in the park. Slow and steady still wins. For others, it’s a jog. Others may opt to push themselves harder, taking up the challenge of the 10K distance and even pushing for a new personal best time.
“But what is for certain is we’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities. The Race for Life events in Manchester and those still to come across the North West will be fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and an unforgettable event this year.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises funds for world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer – including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.
Head of Health Campaigns at Tesco, Oonagh Turnbull, said: “This will be our 21 st year in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Race for Life and we hope this year can be the biggest yet.”