Cancer patient turns his attention to others in need

By Jane Jeffries

Liam Fisher thought he had a skateboarding injury but it turned out to be a cancerous tumour. Photo / Chris Gorman
Liam Fisher thought he had a skateboarding injury but it turned out to be a cancerous tumour. Photo / Chris Gorman

A young cancer patient who has just finished his treatment is already thinking of others.

Selwyn College student Liam Fisher organised the New Zealand Blood Service to visit his school in Kohimarama yesterday so students and staff could donate blood.

"I am done with needing blood but there are lots of kids who are worse off than me who are going through treatment and need it," said the Kohimarama 14-year-old.

"Donating blood is a cool way students can help others and support me because some of the kids felt too awkward to come and see me when I was really sick."

Liam was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his leg 12 months ago. What he first thought was a skateboarding injury turned out to be osteosarcoma - a type of cancer that starts in the bone.

He has undergone a human bone transplant in his tibia (shin bone) and has a titanium artificial knee.

Twelve rounds of intensive chemotherapy not only left him feeling terrible but prevented his body from making its own blood cells.

"They tried to blast it out of me," he said.

"It made me feel so horrible and sick I didn't want to talk to anyone. All I wanted to do was pull the curtains and curl up in a ball."

Liam needed several blood transfusions and in total received eight units of red blood cells and four units of platelets. The four units of platelets alone took 21 donors.

With Liam's enthusiasm to help others and with support from his school, he organised the blood service to visit Selwyn yesterday.

Sixty-six staff and students went to the school gym to give blood. A third were turned away as there are strict weight and height criteria.

Blood Service spokesman Paul Hayes said it was delighted it had 40 new donors.

Transfusions were an important part of most cancer patients' treatment, he said.

"Over 20 per cent of all red blood cells from donated blood are used for treatment of cancer patients. Many people think most donated blood is used for accident victims but this is not the case."

Tomorrow is World Blood Donor Day. "This is an opportunity to thank the New Zealanders who give up an hour of their time a few times a year to give blood," said Mr Hayes. "We are always looking for new donors, so it is good to raise the awareness."

New Zealand is one of very few countries that has enough people who voluntarily donate blood. It is able to produce enough blood and blood products to meet the needs of the population.

Osteosarcoma

* The most common type of bone cancer
* The sixth most common type of cancer in children
* Boys are more likely to get it than girls
* More likely to affect teens who are experiencing a growth spurt
* In most cases it affects the bones around knee (tibia and femur) or the upper arm bone closest to the shoulder (humerus)
Blood donations
* World Blood Donor Day - Friday www.nzblood.co.nz to donate blood (check eligibility and book an appointment)

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