The walk of life

PUBLISHED: 14:11 26 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 May 2010

Joanne with husband Mike and three of their sons

Joanne with husband Mike and three of their sons

A pain in the mouth turned Joanna Todd s life upside down 18 months ago. She assumed the aching was being caused by a gum infection. It ended with her having a third of her jaw removed after the discovery of a rare bone cancer, osteosarcoma. Now, after in

A pain in the mouth turned Joanna Todd's life upside down 18 months ago.

She assumed the aching was being caused by a gum infection. It ended with her having a third of her jaw removed after the discovery of a rare bone cancer, osteosarcoma.

Now, after intense chemotherapy and surgery, the 35-year-old mother of four young boys says she is finally coming out of her nightmare.

Joanne, who lives with her husband Mike and children in Brunel Drive, Biggleswade, still lives with the prospect of further surgery and has just five teeth remaining in her surgically reconstructed jaw.

Next month she will take giant strides on the path back to full fitness when she walks seven miles to raise funds for the Macmillan nurses who helped her and her family during her darkest hours.

Joanne will be walking across the Sharpenhoe Clappers in a major charity event on June 4 and is hoping Comet readers will support her courage and determination.

At the time of her diagnosis she was training to become a nurse at the University of Hertfordshire after three years as a civilian with Hertfordshire Police at county headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, and wanted to specialise in cancer care.

Talking about the day she discovered a pain in her mouth that turned into a fight for her life, Joanne said: "I had a small lump under my tooth in my lower jaw. I went to my dentist and he said there was nothing wrong.

"Then my teeth started going wonky and I thought I would need a brace. I had an X-ray and there was a shadow but my dentist told me not to worry.

"I still worried and couldn't wait for the NHS to examine me so I went private to Pinehill Hospital in Hitchin and a biopsy revealed the rare bone cancer. My whole life flashed in front of me. Here I was, a mother with four young children and suddenly my life would never be the same again."

Within weeks Joanne underwent major surgery at Luton and Dunstable Hospital where surgeons removed a third of her jaw infected by the cancer and replaced it with bone from her hip.

"I thought my nightmare was over. Little did I know another was around the corner," said Joanne.

"Another test a few months later and I was back in the operating theatre again this time at the Middlesex Hospital in London where it was discovered I had an aggressive form of cancer. Then the chemotherapy started which was horrendous.

"Just thinking about it brings back so many nightmares. But I never gave up hope even when I feared I might be dying which is why I am doing as much as I can now to raise money for organisations that looked after me."

Her strength to beat the odds, Joanne says, came from her family - boys Matthew, three, Jack, 11, Billy, 13, and Daniel, 17, and husband Mike, 34.

"I couldn't believe how mature the boys became and how they coped with their mother being ill.," added Joanne who has also been supported by her twin sister Tracey Bottazzi who lives in Tansey End, Biggleswade.

"They shared my traumas. I shaved my hair off before I lost it through chemotherapy and the boys shaved their heads as well to support me.

"When I was taken ill I was a student nurse and the specific area I wanted to cover was cancer care. But I have had too many nightmares to go back to that."

Despite being restricted by what she can eat, she still manages to raise a smile knowing every day is special.

"I look around me and it is great to be alive so walking a few miles after what I have been through should be a stroll," said Joanne.

If you would like to support Joanne on her charity walk, contact The Comet newsdesk on 01438 866200.

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