THD's story

THD developed cancer in the roof of his mouth. This is his story.

In March of 1990, my GP was visiting my wife as she had fallen ill. As Dr Fox was dealing with her, she expressed her concern for what I thought was just a small lump in my mouth. The doctor acted upon concern and gave me a check up. It ended up with him making me an appointment to see a specialist at Castleford Hospital.

At this appointment I met Dr Henein, the ENT consultant, who examined me and took a sample of the lump for analysis. When I returned to the hospital to collect the results a few weeks later, the doctor told me it was oral cancer and that he wanted to operate immediately. He explained the situation thoroughly and told me that he would be doing the operation at Pontefract Hospital.

I had my operation on 12 May 1990. Once in theatre, the operation took around six hours in which time they removed the lump from the roof of my mouth together with half of my palate. They then screwed a plastic plate into the roof of my mouth to cover the hole.

After the operation, I came around to find myself on oxygen almost all the time. I was able to drink fluids and had Complan® for my meals. My mouth was sore as I obviously had cuts there but it was not an unbearable pain. I did however take a few weeks to adapt to the plate.

Later, an appointment was made for me to attend Pinderfields Hospital for a new plate for my mouth. Mr Hutchinson the Oral Surgeon explained what was planned to put me in a better situation.

A few weeks later I returned to Castleford Hospital where Mrs Cruickshank, another ENT Consultant, introduced the idea of radiotherapy to me. Again it was thoroughly explained and they told me that it would not hurt but would burn a little.

They told me that 2 deep x-rays were needed and 20 shots of radiotherapy. I received an appointment for this and visited Cookridge Hospital in Leeds. At the radiotherapy room, the nurse took fittings for a plastic shell mask which went all over my face. This was one of the strangest experiences yet. The shell took a few days to make and was to be used by the doctor to mark out the point to the correct part of my mouth for the radiotherapy shots.

After this, I travelled to Cookridge Hospital every day in the afternoon around 12 pm. They supplied accommodation if necessary but I did not want to stay in hospital. So I chose to travel everyday from home in a taxi supplied by the hospital.

My first day was a Monday and after reporting to the reception, I was escorted into the waiting room with lots of other cancer patients where I waited until my name was called. I followed the nurse into the examination room in which I laid on the table. The plaster cast was placed on my face and a tube into my mouth to enable me to breathe. As the table was to move up and down, I was told to lie very still. Then the lights were dimmed. Once the machine was turned on, the nurse left me in the room. The only sound was a low hum coming from the machine but I felt nothing. Then the nurse came back in to the room to move the machine to the other side of my face. These two shots that I had took around 4 minutes each and all were completely painless.

The next day I returned for more radiotherapy. After my tenth shot I still felt good. By about the fifteenth shot, my face started to burn a little and it left a small cross on my face. I pointed this out but was told it was nothing of great concern. In fact it was a good sign, it was hitting the correct mark. I completed all twenty shots and felt okay apart from the marking on my face, which cleared up after two weeks.

As the weeks went by I started to feel much better. I wasn’t as tired and my mouth was healing well. Once I felt better, I had an appointment to see the specialist dentist at Pinderfields. Dr Joshi examined me and decided that new dentures were required. He explained that the hole was shrinking and that a new plate with teeth was needed. This was going to be the third set since having my operation as my mouth was changing rapidly as it healed. He explained that this next set of teeth would slightly change my face. It would just puff my cheeks out a little. The new dentures did change it slightly but all for the better as they fitted much tighter and were considerably more comfortable. I now see Dr Joshi at Wakefield once a year and also report to the doctors at Pontefract Hospital once a year.

While I have mentioned hospital staff, nurses and doctors, and I can’t thank them enough, there is one person I have not mentioned. My daughter. She helped me to keep going and I thank her for all her support.

I had my cancer over 12 years ago. I am living proof that the operation can be a success, and that you can go on to live a quality life. I hope you will have the confidence and determination to fight against this disease.

Yours faithfully

THD