Grateful for the support she has received during her ongoing treatment for a benign tumour, a selfless teenager from Fermanagh is fundraising to help others who are going through a similar experience.

13-year-old Jessica Saunderson from Enniskillen was diagnosed with a giant cell tumour on her leg, just below the knee, in May, 2019.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Jessica’s mum, Michelle Saunderson, explained her daughter’s diagnosis and treatment.

“A giant cell tumour is benign [not cancerous], but because of the extent of the tumour, Jessica had to get a form of chemo treatment called Denosumab,” she said.

At this time Jessica required the use of a wheelchair as the tumour had broken a bone in her leg, leaving her in a cast for a number of months.

She received treatment from June to December, 2019, and in January, 2020, she underwent surgery to remove the tumour from her leg.

“They went in and took out all of the tumour. She had a bone graft put in to fill the hole just below the knee,” explained Michelle.

Following the surgery, Jessica required a brace on her leg to keep it straight. “She was in that for a right few months, then every time we went up [to the hospital] they bent it, to a degree. She’s been on crutches ever since 2019,” said Michelle.

Although she was still undergoing treatment at the time, Jessica was able to return to school in September, 2019.

“Devenish College were absolutely fantastic – anything Jessica needed, they were there for her. Her classroom assistant, Mrs. Murphy, was brilliant; she took over all her care at school.

“And [the Principal] Mr. Mowbray, when Jessica couldn’t go up the stairs, he actually moved a class down to accommodate her.”

Last September, Michelle noticed swelling on Jessica’s leg again. She raised her concerns with her doctor and an x-ray was organised.

“We got an appointment with Belfast and they told us that the tumour was back,” said Michelle, getting emotional.

Jessica underwent surgery to remove the second tumour, and required bars and plates to be put into her leg. “There has been a lot of damage to her leg and with this tumour it can grow back,” said Michelle.

Following the removal of the second tumour, Jessica now requires another bone graft and is due to undergo surgery in four weeks’ time.

Michelle can’t speak highly enough of the healthcare staff who have helped her daughter.

“The doctors, surgeons and consultants are just absolutely fantastic. Dr. Johnston at the Royal, Mr. Warnock at Musgrave, Mr. Breen and Mr. Lewis in the Ulster Hospital – they have been amazing with her, and Susan the sarcoma nurse, I can phone her any time. Their whole care is just outstanding,” said Michelle, adding that she is also grateful to the Occupational Therapists at the South West Acute Hospital who have provided specialist equipment for Jessica.

Talking about Jessica’s emotional wellbeing through her treatment Michelle commented: “She’s been up and down.

“The second time around, she has been really emotional, just the mobility, getting around and not being allowed to do any exercise at all for two years,” she said, explaining how Jessica loved dancing and before her diagnosis would have attended classes with Dylan Quinn.

“It’s been really hard but that’s where the Children’s Cancer Fund have come in and they’ve just been fantastic,” said Michelle, noting how they provide counselling services via play therapy and online activities, which have really benefited her daughter during these difficult times.

“Jessica always wanted to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Fund. She just wanted to say thank you and give something back,” said Michelle, noting how her selfless teenage daughter donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust last year.

As Michelle is a classroom assistant at Enniskillen Model Primary School and Jessica a former pupil, the school is helping to raise money for Cancer Fund NI with a special virtual fundraising event next week.

“Mr. Rainey, a P7 teacher at Enniskillen Model, he came up with this brilliant idea to have a Zoom online quiz night.

“We’re doing that next Friday, February 26 at 7pm,” said Michelle, adding: “We have a few singers coming in; we have Lisa McHugh and Nathan Carter.

“Helen from the Children’s Cancer Fund is going to do a wee talk about where the money goes to, and what children avail of with their service.”

Commenting that she is very grateful to all the staff at the school who are helping make the online fundraising event happen, Michelle added: “It gives everyone a wee lift, especially Jessica.”