As many of you know and some of you may not.
⭐️I’M A CANCER SURVIVOR⭐️
I had an ulcer that wasn’t healing and on the advise of my dentist (who possibly saved my life) recommend I get it looked at. The doctor referred me to QA hospital who took several biopsies.
On Friday 13th September 2013 (seriously!) I was told I had cancer of the tongue. Then followed a series of scans. I was then told the treatment would involve 1/3 of my tongue removed, an artery from my arm attached to a flap of skin would be used to rebuild my missing part of the tongue. They would open up the right side of my neck and remove my lymph nodes. I would be on a tracheostomy for a while to help me breath as my air ways would be comprised by all the swelling. Oh, and I was told I may have to have my teeth removed prior to any further treatment 😭. The tumour and lymph nodes would then be sent for testing to see if that was required.
On 4th November 2013 (my son’s 3rd birthday and the day after we moved house!) I was taken down for an 8 hour operation. I’m not going to lie. They following 10 days in hospital were horrid. I felt awful. I couldn’t talk, my tracheostomy keep blocking (you can’t breath) I had asthma attack after asthma attack. I just couldn’t bring myself to look in the mirror. I couldn’t face what I looked like. My arm looked like it had been crushed and my neck wound kept leaking fluid. I obviously couldn’t eat in the traditional way so ways fed via a tube into my stomach. It’s not a pleasant experience in the slightest. As it pumps, it triggers your swallowing reflex, which on a bone dry throat was just painful.
And I missed my boy.....my now 3 year old.
I made myself get out of bed as soon as I was allowed to. I would walk with my drip up and down the corridors. I was by far the youngest person on the ward. Apparently mouth cancer tends to be old men who drink and smoke to much. I was determined not to be in hospital a day longer than necessary. I was scheduled for 14 days. I was out in 10. 🙌.
So, at home now I felt better. I got to wash my hair! (sort of as I’m covered in dressings etc). I can’t eat properly so am on a diet of medical milkshakes and purees. We celebrate Christmas and I manage a little bit of veggies and gravy.
Back to hospital for the results of my operation on the 28th December. ‘I’m sorry Mrs Blake, we need to carry out further treatment as the margins (healthy tissue v cancer) aren’t as good as we like. You will need to undergo intensive radiotherapy. You will need to be accessed by our dentist to see if we need to remove any teeth as the treatment will have life long effects on your jaw bone and your potential to heal.’ All I’m hearing is that I’m going to have no teeth at 34 and the cancer is still there.
Thank goodness I went to the dentist on a regular basis and I brushed and flossed regularly. I only needed my wisdom teeth removed. It was a victory in this journey. So. I went as a day patient and had them out.
I then had to then go and get my radiotherapy mask made. I had to be kept still during treatment so they make a bespoke mask which covers your head and neck and gets bolted down to the bed while they zap you. The first time I wore mine I panicked and made them cut out eye holes for me so I could see properly. Oh and I got my first (and only) tattoo. A little dot they use to line up the machines lasers with.
My oncologist planned for me to have 20 rounds of treatment. 5 days a week for 4 weeks. My taste was the first thing to go. Then came the burns. Oh. My. God. My whole mouth was effected. It turned white and my mouth was peeling from the inside out. Chunks would come off my tongue or the roof of my mouth. The pain was so server I was on maximum Oramorph (liquid morphine) and the highest dose morphine patches. I’d developed a condition called ‘ Mucositis’. Which in short meant an acute reaction to the radiation. We were at a point where my weight was dropping (couldn’t eat and was struggling to drink) and the only option was to have a peg put into my stomach and I would be bag fed.
My oncologist made the call to stop my treatment. I had 3 sessions left. My reaction to treatment was so damaging to the healthy tissue, he surmised that the same would of happened to any cancer cells.
I was just so relieved I didn’t have to go back for treatment and didn’t need a hole and tube put into my stomach.
Radiotherapy treatment side effects continue for about 2 weeks after the last zapping. So it wasn’t until about a month after did I feel any better. I had radiotherapy fatigue (you literally can’t move) for a long time after. I had also become dependent on morphine without realising it. So reducing my dosage meant going into detoxing side effects as it’s an Opiate. That was fun.
I had many checkups at ‘cancer club’ with a couple in the first year having to give a biopsy as we thought it had come back.
That was all about 5 years ago now. Since then I’ve gone back to work, been on a few holidays and had my amazing little girl. Cancer likes to remind you it’s in the background. I had my 5 year check up last month. Hopefully looking forward to being told I’m in remission. But no. They found some tissue across the transplant and healthy tissue they weren’t happy with. So instead I had to give a 1.5cm biopsy. Got the results this week. All clear. Still on the books for another year. I’m ok with that.
I’ve not sugar coated what has happened to me or pretended to be brave (I wasn’t I just didn’t have a choice not to go through with it, did I?)
Cancer has and always will play a part of my life. But it doesn’t define who I am. The charity that I’m running/walking for helped me in my journey. They helped me see my boy grow up and to allow me be a Mummy again. So if you’ve made it to the bottom of this long post, please sponsor me to allow me to give something back. I don’t care if it’s just a quid. It would mean the world to me.
Love Caz xxx