6 years later

BBP developed tongue cancer. This is his update 6 years later!

May 2005 (Six Years Later)

Having recently completed a beginner’s course on computers, I was at home casually browsing the oral cancer web pages when I came across www.rdoc.org.uk. Clicking onto it, I began to read some of the patients reports of their experiences. I was quite surprised to see a report with the same initials as myself being BBP! So, of course, I clicked on to find out astonishingly that it was my own story which I had forgotten I had written about, over six years ago. Much has happened since.

Following the shock and upset of being diagnosed with oral cancer back in October 1998, and then having the brachytherepy radioactive treatment at Cookridge Hospital, Leeds, I continued with my monthly check-ups, then held at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Two years on down the line, at an appointment with my own local dentist in Heckmondwike, a really nice chap who had actually found my original problem, I was persuaded to take part in the trials of a new product, OraScan. It is a 3 component system. One component is a flavored 1% toluidine blue solution. The other two are pre- and post-rinse solutions consisting of flavored 1% acetic acid which is a sour tasting. It shows up any sores, ulcers or other problems. My mouth, of course, showed up a problem where the brachytherapy pins had been inserted; this caused my wife and I great anxiety. I was referred back to the hospital where it was decided to keep a close watch on me, in case there was something there. Hopefully, it was the scar tissue showing a reaction. Then as the months ticked away I was given a specially made up concoction known as “knox medicine” to resolve the soreness. After trying that I had a course of small tablets, which were allowed to dissolve slowly under the tongue. Then I tried a thick paste “Adcortyl” which seemed very good , but a little awkward to use. But it didn’t get better. Then came the bombshell, at my check-up appointment at the maxillofacial department at St. Lukes Hospital, Bradford, it was decided to carry out a biopsy, there and then! This was now October, 2002, four years to the week of my original diagnosis. Worse was yet to come when the results were made known to me the following week at Bradford Royal Infirmary. The cancer had returned with a vengeance!

I remember feeling devastated, numbed with shock, bewildered, as it was explained to me that, due to my having had the radioactive treatment four years earlier, it now complicated matters and I now faced a serious operation, involving my face, neck, shoulder, wrist and thigh. After several visits to different hospitals for blood tests, x-rays and MRI scans, I was given the date for entering hospital; it was to be December 18th, 2002, my birthday! I certainly won’t forget that one.

The next 7/8 days were just a blur. Never in my life have I felt so down, so utterly defeated, dejected, defenceless. I’ve tried but I just cannot explain or put it into words, and of course at the time I had the tracheotomy halting any verbal contact. The morphine numbed and made things bearable, but the one thing I am sure about is that those wonderful doctors, nurses and staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary, brought me through an extremely traumatic experience; they all so excelled in their jobs. Having endured the 11 hour facial, neck throat, shoulder, wrist and thigh operation, it became my ambition to go home. So I was really pleased when they released me 2/3 days early, and allowed me to see the new year 2003 in from home.

During the last few days in hospital I took to writing a verse, it reads as follows

I dreamt the worst nightmare, that one could ever dream
My life appeared short, or so it seemed
Struck down with an illness, with uncertain cures
To face a future, of which nobody knows
The strength of my wife, my family and friends
Persuading me that surely, I’ll soon be on the mend
The dreads the apprehensions, the suspicions the fears
The tricks the mind plays, the thousands of tears
In the dead of the night, why does one think the worst
Waiting for daylight, to bring an end to the curse
The length of each day, seems like eternity
Hoping and waiting, for someone to visit me
The half- hourly callers, go on their way so quick
Now I’m alone again, with just my wounds to lick
Roll on tomorrow, maybe I’ll get the all clear
And leave all these patients, with their own doubts and fears
Good luck and God bless, may the sunlight soon break
And steer all you good people, through your own heartache
The nurses will tend you, with patience and kind
And soon you’ll feel better, with the comfort you’ll find B.B.P.

The following weeks and indeed months passed with my learning to eat, drink and talk again, and to carry out physical and oral exercises with the help of my long suffering wife. At this point I must show my gratitude and again thank my wife Sandra, who has lived through this six year period with me, and also my son Darren, his partner Helen, and my beautiful three year old Grand-daughter Laura Mary.

Looking back, I can’t believe how well I’ve done, I’m eating and talking virtually as before, and I feel good apart from the obvious aches and pains. My hospital checkup appointments are now four monthly at the maxillofacial department at St. Luke's Hospital, which is staffed by a lovely friendly team who always, with kindly words, make these visits as pleasant as they can.

I hope my updated story will not upset anyone; I have tried not to be too graphic in my description. I wish anybody facing a similar ordeal, very good luck. Think positive, knowing that you have the very best medical teams with you. My own special thanks go to the skills of the theatre teams, the specialists, nursing and administration staff, and anyone else concerned at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Bradford St. Luke’s to whom I remain sincerely grateful. B.B.P.

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