In May last year Grace Nkounkou-Issombe and husband Ambrose Ogbechie had just welcomed their first child Austin into the world when Grace started to have difficulty walking.
In July, the results of a biopsy on a lump on her right femur, previously diagnosed as benign, found osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and treatment started immediately at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
But in December Grace made the difficult decision to have her leg amputated, as the chemotherapy wasn't proving as effective as hoped.
Thankfully the most intensive part of her chemotherapy and other treatment is now over, and with the help of physiotherapists and a prosthetic, Grace hopes to learn to walk again this year, while completing the rest of her treatment.
Throughout her ordeal support for Grace and her family has been available from leading UK cancer support charity CLIC Sargent, which works with young patients aged 0-25 and their families, and has an independent team based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital providing financial and emotional support to young patients like Grace.
CLIC Sargent also runs a music programme which offers young people with cancer the chance to get involved in a range of musical activities that helps them develop their song writing and composition skills, and grow as performers. It was through CLIC Sargent’s music programme that Grace had the chance to professionally record her song ‘In your honour’, which was co-written by her sister Melica Nkounkou, at the Summerfield Studios in Birmingham.
“The song we’ve written means a lot to me. It’s about how even when I’ve been in a dark place over the last year, I’ve never felt alone.
“One of my favourite lines in the song is ‘I am fearless when you walk with me,’ because without my faith in God I think I might have been too scared, and given up.
“And even though it might sound strange to some people, cancer hasn’t just been a negative experience.
“There have been a lot of positive things that have come out of all this. I’ve met so many special people on my journey who have helped me so much, and I have a different perspective on life now.
“Now I want to make the most of every day that I’ve got.”
Grace’s performance name is Keziah G. She is originally from Belgium and part of the song is written in her native French. A translation can be found alongside a video of Grace recording the song on YouTube.
“Going to a professional studio session made me feel like a celebrity – like Beyonce! I’m not a diva but I felt like one that day…when I got to the studio Sam my CLIC Sargent support worker who has been here for me since I was diagnosed was there waiting for me.
Sam has supported Grace and her family throughout her treatment to date. For example, he helped with financial support to help the young family pay their rent as when Grace fell ill, as her husband Ambrose had to leave work to care for their newborn son Austin.
“If it wasn’t for CLIC Sargent I don’t know how we would have coped. Now I’m getting better I’m looking forward to doing more work with CLIC Sargent’s music programme this summer.
“And I’m loving being at home with Ambrose and my son Austin now. We feel so lucky.”