On may 1999 I was diagnosed as having oral cancer. I had been attending Liverpool Dental Hospital for the previous ten years every six months. This was because I had a condition called Lichen Planus, which gave me a sore sensitive tongue, a condition which occasionally precedes cancer.
I had a small red lump on the right side of my tongue, the following day I was in the Maxillofacial Unit at Aintree Hospital. The lump was removed, after three days in hospital I was home, the lump was confirmed as being cancerous. I thought this was then over, my tongue healed and felt fine. Three weeks later I felt a small lump in my jaw, the cancer was now in my saliva gland.
At the end of June I was re admitted to the maxillofacial war. This time the operation was a major one, it lasted all day. My saliva gland along the right side of my face was removed, along with a large section of my tongue, where the original lump was removed from, as a precaution. So that I could still eat and speak a piece of tissue was taken from my wrist and part of the artery in my left arm, these were then stitched into my tongue. A skin graft was taken from my leg and placed into my wrist. The operation was a success and I spent a further three weeks in hospital.
In September I began a six week course of radiotherapy at the Clatterbridge Oncology Unit, attending the unit every weekday morning; this was done to zap any stray cancer cells. The radiotherapy gave me a terrible cough which lasted until the end of the year, then it slowly got better and by spring 2000 I felt completely better.
The whole cancer experience is life shattering, but after the initial shock, which for me lasted four or five weeks, once I was in hospital for my op I felt more positive and safe in the knowledge that I was being looked after. My care and treatment in the Maxillofacial Unit was wonderful and second to none.
I found the radiotherapy the hardest, most difficult treatment. My voice disappeared for several weeks, it was hard to talk and people could not understand me, this did slowly improve. I went back to work in spring 2000, I work with children so most of my working involves talking and I managed this quite well.
I don't eat in the same way, my diet is now much softer, I have adapted and cope well. In every other way my life is normal again. I still have regular check ups at the Dental Hospital. My mouth dries up easily but I have pils and Gels to help with this,
Although the diagnosis, operation and treatment sounds frightening, it wasn't painful it is just to be got through, because life at the other side is just how it once was.