I was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in September 2010. It was a massive shock. I was 17 years old and the fittest I had ever been, training seven days a week for the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) championships.
My symptoms started with pain in my head and what felt like an ulcer on the roof of my mouth. The pain became unbearable so I went to the local A&E where doctors performed a biopsy on the lump. They discovered a 3.5cm-wide tumour that had wrapped around the bones in my face. My first thought was not about my health, but about my boxing.
I was referred to The Royal Marsden and went through eight courses of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before it could be surgically removed. In February 2011, I had my palate, eight front teeth and right sinus removed. A plastic palate and teeth were put in as a temporary measure, then I had more chemotherapy.
Ever since I was 10 years old, I had dreamed of being a boxing champion... I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me
Nine months later, I underwent a 13-and-a-half-hour operation where the surgeons took bone and tissue from my shoulder blade to reconstruct my mouth. Usually, they would take bone from the shin, but the surgeons knew how important my boxing career was so they carried out this first-of-its kind operation to ensure I could train again.
Ever since I was 10 years old, I had dreamed of winning the ABA title, and I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me. My determination to box again kept me going. I’ve always been competitive, and when you’re fighting for your life, you have no choice. By summer 2012, I was back in the ring and won two out of three fights.
Sadly, my facial reconstruction was slightly damaged after my fourth fight, so I’ve not been able to box since. It was hard to give up, but I’ve got my life back on track. I am fit and healthy, have been in remission for five years and have a beautiful wife. What more could I ask for?
Mr Cyrus Kerawala, Consultant Maxillofacial/Head and Neck Surgeon, says:
“When I first met Jamie, he was determined to pursue a professional boxing career.
“When discussing where we could harvest bone to reconstruct his top jaw, we ultimately agreed that his left shoulder blade would be best – for the size and shape that we needed for the surgery, but also the impact it would have on his boxing.
“We used data from Jamie’s scans to make a three dimensional model of the bones in his skull. This meant we could decide on a tailored approach and plan where to make any cuts before he reached the operating table.
“Jamie was at home after one week and running a half marathon for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity within five. He is an inspiration to our other young patients.”