Cancer patient avoids paralysis thanks to Leeds surgeon’s new technique

LGI neurosurgeon Jake Timothy
LGI neurosurgeon Jake Timothy
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A cancer patient has regained her mobility thanks to a new technique developed by a Leeds surgeon.

After doctors found a tumour pressing on Steph Yates’ spine, she quickly found she struggled to move and was likely to become paralysed.

Conventional treatment was too risky but a procedure developed by Leeds neurosurgeon Jake Timothy has enabled her to walk again.

The 57-year-old said: Steph said: “I can’t thank Mr Timothy enough, quite simply he is a genius and I feel he and his colleagues have given me hope that I can carry on and do the things I want to do.

“Before the op I couldn’t even sit up for long and even travelling in the car to Leeds was agonising, but after the operation I couldn’t believe I was able to get up and move around for the first time in weeks.”

Steph, from North Yorkshire, initially thought she had a pulled muscle but after a scan, was given the devastating news that there was in fact a tumour pressing on her spine which was rapidly affecting her ability to walk.

She underwent radiotherapy and steroid treatment in Middlesbrough, but the tumour meant she was quickly incapacitated and in a short space of time went from being very active to having to lay down all day.

Medics warned her that it was inevitable that she soon be completely paralysed – a prognosis she could not accept.

“I’m a fighter and don’t agree there nothing than can be done,” Steph explained.

“I couldn’t face the prospect of just giving up and accepting I would become paraplegic so I went back to my GP and asked if there was any other option for me. There is a lot I still want to do and I couldn’t face being told I would be paralysed and helpless.

“Luckily I was told there was a chance for me and I was referred to Leeds General Infirmary and very quickly seen by neurosurgeon Jake Timothy.

“He saw me straight away and told me about a technique he has been developing which specifically helps patients like me with bone cancer affecting the spine. In no time at all I was booked in for surgery – I couldn’t believe how quickly it all happened.”

The operation, which involved making a small incision and removing the tumour, was a success and she was able to go home within days.

Steph added: “You never know how much you take for granted being able to walk and just move about normally carrying out everyday tasks until that ability is taken from you, so I can’t express how grateful I am. I would say to anyone else in my position not to give up hope and accept what you are told – there are always options and I am so glad I found the right one for me.”

* The technique can dramatically improve quality of life for patients like Steph Yates.

Jake Timothy, who worked with colleague Tony Goddard, said: “The technique I used was to make a small incision on the left side of her chest and remove most of the tumour and insert a support to stabilise her spine, in an operation taking around two hours. By using a small incision it is also a quick procedure to recover from, which is particularly important for these patients.”