Eighteenth birthday celebrations are supposed to be momentous occasions in life that mark the start of adulthood.
For the vast majority, the milestone will be forever remembered by holding a party or going on holiday with friends.
But for Newmarket resident Rob Walker his 18th birthday had a much different feel to it with his best present coming just weeks before his big day after receiving news he had long been waiting for, that of being given the all clear from a cancerous tumour.
The journey for Rob, who is now in the final year of a physiotherapy degree at Brunel University in London, began the previous year following a look into an ongoing foot condition.
“I had been having several problems with my feet and had tried various things to get it sorted,” said Rob
“After visits to the GP I went for an MRI scan at West Suffolk Hospital and when it came back it looked like I had a little golf ball near my left heel.
“They had no idea what it was so they booked me in to have an orthopaedic operation to investigate the mass inside my foot. The results from histology came back a bit more serious than they thought as they found it to be a malignant sarcoma.”
Within days of discovering he had a sarcoma in his foot Rob, who attended St Louis Primary School in Newmarket, was taken to one of the leading cancer hospitals in the country to have it removed before it had the chance to spread.
“When I found out it was malignant I was pretty tearful and it did make me feel low,” said Rob.
“Within 10 days of learning the news I was sent to the Royal Marsden in London to have it taken out.
“Not only was it hard for me, but it was a tough for my parents to cope with, it really did hit them for six.”
Although the operation at the Marsden to remove the tumour was a success Rob, who at the time was studying his A-levels at St Benedict’s Upper School in Bury St Edmunds, was far from out of the woods, having to undergo a six-week bout of radiotherapy at Addenbroke’s Hospital, Cambridge, at the start of 2010.
“The radiotherapy was definitely the worst part of the process as it left my foot blistered and in a lot of pain,” said Rob.
“It was quite demoralising at that point as after a while of it I couldn’t go into school with the risk of someone catching the blistered skin.
“My teachers at St Benedict’s were great and ensured that I didn’t miss out by emailing work or sending it in the post.”
As the weeks passed, the pain finally began to ease for Rob and in May 2010 he was told the news he had hoped to hear.
“It was at the end of May that I got the results back from a CT scan and it showed that it was clear,” said Rob.
“That was a great day for me and my family and, for me, it was the icing on the cake at my 18th birthday, which was just over a month later.”
With his foot fully recovered Rob has decided to raise money for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, as a way of saying thanks for the support they gave him and his family, by running in this year’s Virgin Active London Marathon.
“Although my mum and dad might think differently, my situation was minor compared to other children, but the support the charity gave us was brilliant,” said Rob.
“I said that one day I would like to raise money for them to help other children and their families cope with cancer and now I am back to full fitness now seems a great time.”
With this year’s race now just under three months away, the former Moulton Panthers junior footballer has confirmed he is on track with his training and fundraising efforts for the challenge ahead.
“I came back at Newmarket for Christmas and it was great to go running on the heath and train in the town,” said Rob.
“The fund raising is going well and I got a great amount over Christmas and so far I have raised just over £800 of my £1,800 target.
“My aim is to complete the race in four hours, if I achieve that I will be happy.”
n To sponsor Rob, search for Rob Walker at www.virginmoneygiving.com.