Go Team JB! Celebrities and sports stars show their support for brave 29-year-old battling extremely rare heart cancerJo Bryant, 29, has a cardiac sarcoma heart tumour and was told by doctors that it was terminal and she would not 'be growing old'
After the diagnosis Jo's friends formed Team JB – famous faces offering support include Cheryl Cole, Jonny Wilkinson and Prince Harry
In February, doctors gave Jo 6-12 months to live, but she decided to have further gruelling chemotherapy – her tumours are shown to have shrunk
Jo: 'I will never give up and that is my promise to all my friends and family'
09:04 GMT, 9 July 2012
Determined: Jo Bryant, 29, from Horncastle in Lincolnshire has a cardiac sarcoma heart tumour
When keen sportswoman Jo Bryant began collapsing during short runs on the hockey pitch she knew there was something deeply wrong with her body.
But the last thing on her mind – and those of her doctors – was that the cause of her rapidly deteriorating health was the rarest form of cancer in the world.
Within months, Jo, now 29, was told the cardiac sarcoma heart tumour she was suffering from was terminal and in her words, she ‘wouldn’t be growing old’.
Elite sports event organiser Jo recalls the moment doctors were left as shocked as she was after she referred herself to a private specialist.
She said: ‘He was amazed I was even walking around. It was assumed to be benign (a myxoma) and I was told that he was 99.99 per cent sure it wasn't cancer.
‘Whatever it was, it had to come out so I had open heart surgery four days later.
‘When I came round from surgery I knew, as soon as I looked into my anaesthetists eyes, that what they had found in there hadn't been what they were expecting. No one would tell me anything though.
‘As I was leaving the hospital 10 days after my surgery, my cardiologist delivered the blow – the unexpected had happened and it was a cardiac sarcoma. He told me I wouldn't be growing old.’
The discovery of the cancer in January last year was the beginning of a gruelling battle against the disease that immediately saw Jo begin 360 hours of chemotherapy. The type of sarcoma Jo was diagnosed with is suffered by just a handful of people around the world.
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Star support: After the diagnosis Jo's friends were determined to help in anyway they could and created Team JB in which celebrities, such as Cheryl Cole, left, and Gary Barlow posed for a photo to show their support
Royal approval: Since the formation of Team JB, support has flooded in from countless famous faces including Prince Harry
It also left her friends determined to help in anyway they could – and Team JB was born in which top sports stars and celebrities have been enlisted to pose for a photograph to show their support for brave Jo.
She said: ‘It all started when a friend working out in Ethipoia sent through a picture of Haile Gebrselassie. My friends are a competitive bunch and they all just want to out do each other I think.
‘I've not encouraged it or been a part if it at all.
Worldwide support: Athlete Jessica Ennis holds a sign declaring 'Team Bryant'. Jo said the support she has received has proved inspirational as she undergoes yet more gruelling treatment
Helping hand: Runner Mo Farrah smiles broadly as he holds a message Jo's friends have put together, while Aston Villa striker Darren Bent holds a sign saying 'Never give up Jo'
‘It has made me realise though that I have the potential to really raise awareness about this little-known condition.’
Since the formation of Team JB, support has flooded in from countless superstars including Gary Barlow, Jonny Wilkinson, Prince Harry and Jessica Ennis.
And their support has proved inspirational for Jo as she undergoes yet more gruelling treatment.
Proud to partake: Rugby superstar Jonny Wilkinson smiles widely as he holds up his supportive sign
Rallying around: Wanderers on Wheels who have raised thousands of pounds for cancer charity Sarcoma UK
She said: ‘It means a huge amount.
Every single day I am facing challenges – physical from the chemo side
effects mostly and mental and it's support like this that really helps
give me the strength to keep fighting.
‘I have amazing friends. It's
strange, but when something like this happens, there are some people you
just don't hear from as they don't know what to say.
‘There are others, people you don't expect, that really step up and that has meant a lot.’
Happy to pose: Jedward hold a sign supporting the brave 29-year-old
Adding glamour: Sports presenter Georgie Thompson and TV presenter Davina McCall lend their support
Good cause: Singer Geri Halliwell and actress Gemma Arterton hold their signs up proudly
Campaign success: Team Bryant's message advertised on the side of a bus
Her friend of 16 years Charli Giles paid tribute to her fighting spirit.
said: ‘Her pragmatism, determination and stubbornness has had to endure
all sorts of unpredictable twists and turns since she was diagnosed yet
there is still this relentless spirited glow which sits in her eyes and
her rosy cheeks.
when her blog talks of trauma and pain, the glow remains. I’m not sure
how she does it. When people share her blog and talk of inspiration, the
word doesn’t even come close.’
Jo also paid tribute to her Mum, Jill, brother, John and boyfriend Barney who have helped her fight the disease.
She said: ‘We have a very small family but the support from my Mum, brother and boyfriend has been amazing and I couldn't get through it without them.’
Together, Jo, her friends and family have raised more than 25,000 for Sarcoma UK, a small charity fighting to raise awareness about the condition and fund further research.
RARE SARCOMA EXPLAINED
What is sarcoma
Sarcomas are cancers of mesenchymal tissue – the connective tissue which holds the human frame together.
Bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, cartilage, fatty and fibrous tissue are the home of these tumours.
Almost uniquely among solid tumours, sarcomas can appear anywhere on or inside the body, and at any age.
How many people are affected
Current estimates put the total number of sarcomas diagnosed each year in the UK at about 3,200 and this may be an under-estimate due to a lack of clarity in the data.
About 15 per cent of patients are children and data suggest that about 30 per cent of patients are aged under 30 years.
In England, around 2,300 people are diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma.
Around 460 people are diagnosed each year with bone sarcoma in England.
What are the different types of sarcoma
There are over 70 different sub-types of sarcoma.
Many of these sub-types are extremely rare – just a few patients each year – and have different age profiles.
What treatment is available
Surgery is commonly viewed as the best option for a ‘cure’.
Radiotherapy is often used in combination with surgery, usually afterwards.
Chemotherapy will usually be used with bone sarcomas before and after surgery, although it is less often used with soft tissue sarcoma and only with sub-types known to respond well to chemotherapy.
What are the chances of survival
Five-year survival rates for patients diagnosed with a bone sarcoma in 2004 were 55 per cent and for patients diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma were 56 per cent.
However, it is important to note that soft tissue sarcoma survival rates vary according to the individual sub-type of sarcoma and can be better or worse than 56 per cent depending on the individual.
Lindsey Bennister, chief executive of
Sarcoma UK, said: ‘'Jo has been a phenomenal support to our charity,
raising awareness of sarcoma cancer through her moving and inspirational
blog and social media activity.
‘Having had the pleasure of meeting Jo personally, we have been touched by her motivation and passion for life.
'Her positive attitude is an inspiration to everyone; her enthusiasm and desire to make a difference to others is infectious and reflected in her huge network of supporters and friends who have cycled for miles, ran monthly marathons and donated so generously to Sarcoma UK.
‘Team Bryant has raised over 25,000 in two months towards sarcoma research, information and support. We are enormously grateful to Jo and her friends and family for their financial support, and their amazing ability to turn their hand to any challenge.’
Today Jo, who has moved from London back to the family farm near Horncastle in Lincolnshire, is undergoing further chemotherapy and is also exploring alternative treatments to fight the cancer.
She said: ‘Obviously, there are lots of tears from time to time, but overall I try and stay positive and see this is as just another challenge that I will overcome, somehow, no matter how firmly the odds are stacked against me.’
In February, doctors gave Jo 6-12 months to live and the option of further gruelling chemotherapy.
She said: ‘It was a really difficult decision to make as chemo seriously affects the quality of your life and having gone through it once, I wasn't sure I could do it again, especially as they were saying that it may or may not prolong my life.
‘I decided in the end to give it a go, and the first lot of scans show that it is working, and the tumours are shrinking which is the best news I could have hoped for.
‘That said, they are not saying they can cure me and I want to be cured, and I believe I can be. There are a huge amount of other things out there to try and so I am doing just that: I have overhauled my diet, and am trying reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture, visual imagery and meditation.
‘So, the future for now, is all about exploring all of the alternatives and taking control back from the doctors to try and help myself, while at the same time trying to raise money for and awareness of sarcoma.
‘It's so easy to just put your life in the doctors hands and believe what they say, but statistics are just statistics and there are always anomalies. I will never give up and that is my promise to all my friends and family.'
NOW WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT LIVING WITH SARCOMA
All In It Together – Living With Sarcoma from Papercut Pictures on Vimeo.