'My consultant's favourite quote was, "It's not a walk in the park, but it's doable" Mouth Cancer Awareness Month- Chris's story

 'Mouth cancer awareness month - Chris' story' written in white over an image of a treeline at sunset

As the end of November draws in so does the end of Mouth Cancer Awareness Month which takes place every November in the UK. To mark this, we have asked our Community Champion  a few questions about his experience of being diagnosed with mouth cancer. Why not take a look through Chris’s story?When were you first diagnosed with mouth cancer?

 A photo of 'Chris' a Community member

When were you first diagnosed with mouth cancer?

My name is Chris I am aged 58 and live with my wife and son plus our two mini Dachshunds.

I was first diagnosed with floor of the mouth cancer in October 2008 and had my first operation on 5th of November that year followed by 30 zaps of radiotherapy and 3 chemotherapy. This cancer started off with what I thought was an ulcer on my bottom gum but was proved to be a cancerous tumour. 

"My consultant's favourite quote was "it’s not a walk in the park but it’s doable" He was right."

What was the most helpful piece of advice given to you after diagnosis?

The best advice I got was that cancer is not a death sentence nowadays and the recovery/success rate has increased massively even since I had my surgery and treatment. My consultant's favourite quote was "it’s not a walk in the park but it’s doable" He was right.

Was there anything in particular that helped you cope throughout treatment?

The main thing that got me through my journeys was my families support along with the incredible team that looked after me, plus great help from Macmillan when needed. Funny enough I do volunteer work for The Macmillan Online Community nowadays.

"...the most important issue is not to let it get on top of you so speak to someone from your team or Macmillan..."

Getting through treatment can be a hard time so I was told to prepare myself for good and bad days, I always kept my self busy during this time but, allowing time for my body to rest and not suffer to much pain , but the most important issue is not to let it get on top of you so speak to someone from your team or Macmillan as they have people who can help in most areas of cancer and the effects it has people’s lives.  

Is there anything you wish more people knew about mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer can come in many forms and in quite a few areas like the tongue, tonsils, jawbone, nasal, larynx etc so its a more complex area to treat. It can also keep you off work for a period of time. With mouth /oral cancers you cannot take chances, so if something does not feel right, i.e. swallow, sore gums, nasal problems then you should get it checked out, lucky mine was found by a dentist. Most mouth cancers are treatable and reconstruction work often comes it to play where skin grafts are used to replace the cancerous area.

"...with the correct help and advice life becomes possible again." 

How is your life different now to when you were first diagnosed?

My life has changed quite a bit as has my face due to surgery mainly due to two other cancers I got, reconstruction of the lower jaw and Larynx cancer. I have had to adapt due to no speech and being unable to eat via the mouth so I use a PEG feeding tube.It’s not been easy as I have had to adapt to my new way of life but with the correct help and advice life becomes possible again. 

Living with cancer can be hard to accept and can be very frightening to start with and can be a long journey.

"I am happy with my life now and continue to live a very good quality of life considering what a journey I have done."  

It’s a case of having the trust and guidance from the consultant and the rest of the team and the support from your family and friend as well as cancer support groups like Macmillan. I am happy with my life now and continue to live a very good quality of life considering what a journey I have done.  

Many thanks to Chris for sharing his story today to raise awareness for mouth cancer. If you have been affected by mouth cancer, or another head and neck cancer and want to speak to others like Chris for support, you can join our 'Head and Neck cancer' group and speak openly about anything you may be going through.

Anonymous
  • You truly are an inspiration Chris so humble despite the bravery it must have taken to get through this and live your life afterwards.  I wish you seasons greetings and a very peaceful happy healthy 2020.  

  • Your consultants quote was spot on. It certainly is not a walk in the park, but just as he said , it’s doable, I am now almost 3 yrs finished treatment and doing well. I had tonsil cancer which spread to lymph gland had radiotherapy 30 fractions and 2 rounds of Cisplatin, which was unpleasant but , like you I’m I’m still here to tell the tale. 
    BigThanks to all those who helped me along the way, and to MacMillan community who kept me going.

  • Dee is correct Chris, you are an inspiration. Stay strong mate.Lynn xx

  • Good to put a face to the name Chris, keep up the good work my friend.

  • Hi Chris, Seasons greetings to you and you certainly are an inspiration. With what you've been through you make me feel guilty for not appreciating how lucky I am to be so well at the moment. I am almost two years since completion of treatment for Tonsil cancer with three lymph nodes affected. I was and still am on the PATHOS trial until two year post completion, end of January. Unfortunately my treatment,which included neck ressection, damaged the nerve to my lower jaw and tongue which is still very painful. The 30 rounds of radiotherapy following made me very ill and I was tube fed for 4 months but I am still here, on analgesics but off the opiods, eating and drinking with some difficulty, but enjoying my first grandchild. As you and jinty56t say it def is no walk in the park but doable. I have been very lucky so far and hope I can be writing inspirational posts 11 years post treatment as you are. You have given me renewed determination to focus on the important good things in life.