BBP's story

BBP developed tongue cancer. This is his story from the beginning!

I am male and aged 55 years. I have worked over 20 years in the licensed trade, and have been a smoker (15–20 a day). That puts me in the ‘higher risk’ category.

My experience began with my wife making an appointment for me at the dentist’s on a Wednesday. I had missed my 6 monthly check-up by 3 months but had not been too bothered knowing that I had nothing wrong with my teeth. So it was just a routine visit.

Until my dentist, who had agreed that no treatment was necessary, suddenly enquired as to how long I had tolerated a small lump underneath my tongue. “As long as I can remember”, I replied. There was a pause and I could feel the apprehension build up in me. My dentist then proceeded to take photos of the lump, then x-rays, before asking me to wait a short while. After about 20 minutes, during which I had built up an overwhelming feeling of personal concern, he called me back in and informed me that he had made me an appointment to see Mr Mason, the Consultant Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon, at St Luke’s Hospital, Bradford. (He has since retired).

To say the least I was shocked, fearing the worst without being told. My wife and I arrived at the hospital two hours’ later. After being weighed, having more head and neck x-rays done, supplying blood samples and further x-rays to my chest, I was told to attend the following morning’s clinic, for a biopsy. This was to be quite an ordeal for me, as I hate needles. After four or five injections to the suspect area, it then felt like having knives and forks in my mouth before having five stitches inserted. It was really painful and very sore later that day. I relied on two paracetamols every four hours to ease my pain.

My next appointment was on the following Tuesday, I was already extremely sore and dreading the visit. After his inspection, Mr Mason noticed that the dissolvable stitches were still intact. He took them out. What great relief, after having them removed from my mouth. He then went on to inform me of the results of my tests. My x-rays and blood samples were clear, but the biopsy confirmed their suspicions. Also, concern was expressed regarding a swelling in my throat area, which was thought to be a saliva gland. It was a big shock. It was like having it but not believing it. I was then introduced to Dr Coyle at the clinic. She explained that I needed a course of intensive radiotherapy at Cookridge Hospital, Leeds.

Later that week I attended St Luke’s for a check up of my teeth. I was shown how to clean and look after my teeth by Dr Joshi and his hygienist. I was supplied with a special tooth brush, and some fluoride gel, to help prepare and strengthen my teeth and gums. I also purchased a bottle of Corsydyl mouthwash.

Five weeks lapsed before meeting Dr Coyle again, this time at Cookridge, I was shown to my en-suite living accommodation. The type of treatment I was to receive required complete isolation. Thankfully, for a seven day period only. I can’t remember much about before the ‘op’ other than the normal pre-med procedures. I do recall that 24 hours after my arrival I awoke, relieved to find that I felt ok but a little fuzzy with an oxygen line clipped to my nose, to enable easier breathing due to the morphine being used. I later discovered that I could self-administer it, by means of a small switch pump attached to the back of my hand. There were some horrible ‘tassles’ hanging loosely in my mouth. These got in the way when eating, drinking and cleaning. These were attached to the stitches which held the radioactive pins in place. I was told I had three pins inserted. The next couple of days went by pretty quickly, I remember looking forward to the visitors half hour. As I felt quite well, I discontinued my use of the morphine pump, preferring seltzer paracetamol for my aches and pains. It allowed me to be more aware of my circumstances.

During and after the short stay in hospital, I must emphasize the importance of maintaining cleanliness of the mouth. Although very awkward due to the ‘tassles’, and soreness, I regularly brushed and rinsed continuously. I am certain that it helped ease the swelling to my tongue and reduced the general reaction to the few small blisters. In all honesty, it was far less suffering than I had feared before hand. I used a saline solution to rinse with. By later in the week, my tongue had acquired a white furry coating. When Dr Coyle arrived at 10:15 pm on Sunday night to remove the pins, it was a pleasant surprise. It meant the possibility of going home one day earlier. Apart from the obvious discomfort and pain of having the stitches and pins removed, I was shocked at seeing the size of the pins, a little larger than I had imagined, but the relief when it was finished soon overcame that.

Now back at hone I am continuously keeping to my cleaning and rinsing procedures, which helps to remove any dead skin and eases soreness. My first appointment after treatment was back at St Luke’s five weeks later. Mr Mason and Dr Coyle appeared satisfied with everything, although slight concern about the lump still being present in my salivary gland. Two weeks later I was back to see Dr Joshi again, everything appeared ok, and it was here that Mr Joshi suggested that I record my experience.

Further to that visit, and two weeks down the road, I was back at Mr Mason’s clinic and met Mr Carroll, the other Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at the department. After an inspection and “all is satisfactory”, Mr Mason had a further look at the lump in the throat, which had decreased in size. It was felt best to leave it well alone, but a close watch will have to be kept on me in the future.

I still have a small amount of soreness from the areas where new skin has formed. I feel little twinges in or on my tongue, especially when in bed, but I have no discomfort with eating, drinking, or cleaning my teeth now. So until my next visit to St Luke’s in six weeks’ time, I remain to all concerned, truly thankful.

Read BBP's update 6 years later...