Head and Neck Cancer
This I think is a very difficult cancer to personally deal with. Yes you can argue that because it has effected me that I am some what biased with my view on this, but I don't care, I'll say it anyway - a cancer that affects your head in particular, is one of the worst in terms of post operation.
It's really hard to describe, but I think of it like severe tooth ache. When you have a raging pain in your tooth, there is nothing you can do. You can't hold it, look at it, push it away like you can do with pain on the end of your finger - it is right inside you, right in the place that is you, your stuck with it.
I knew that after I had my operation I would rarely get any respite from it. Why? Well, having this Obturator in my face 24/7 means that as long as I can feel that plate, the fake jaw and teeth, I would always be reminded about what had happened to me.
So as I write this, in August of 2012 - I still feel that way. I have adapted, of course. I have become very used to this new me - but I can't get away from it. I'm not saying you can get away from any other types of cancer, I'm just saying that when it is in such a functionally active place, as in the mouth, how are you going to forget?
There are other issues too - I still have Trismus (lock Jaw). I can only open 1 - 1.5cm from bottom of top teeth to top of bottom teeth. That means I have to make sure that anything I wish to eat is small enough to fit through, that it is easy to chew as I don't have the same chewing range anymore and I have to wash my obturator when food gets stuck.
It all sounds awful and frankly it is - I won't lie to you about that.
It is bearable though. I didn't think it would be at first, but it is. Firstly, I am here - glad to be and wouldn't have it any other way. Secondly, I am so used to the situation now that it has become second nature. It's not really an issue and all the things I have mentioned are becoming easier and easier to deal with as time moves on.
Head and Neck cancer isn't the easiest to be picked up on apparently. Take my Tumour - the only reason it was found was due to a filling that had come away - my dentist Sally Wilson from Bradford on Avon, who is ultimately my saviour and I think she is awesome for finding it, did an X-Ray on the tooth with the filling problem and noticed something odd on the teeth behind it and sent me off for further investigation. But let's say I didn't go to the dentist, or perhaps my dentist didn't X-Ray, I could be sat here right now, in a very different position.
My tumour was big, it was classed as Stage 4 (T4N0M0) due to the size (over 3cm) and the fact that it had grown into other structures, i.e. my jaw bone, cheek bone and towards my nose. Due to it's size alone, if it wasn't a Mucoepidermoid carcinoma which it was and instead, if it had been the most common, squamous cell carcinoma, my Consultant said that the outcome for me would of been very different!
There has to be greater awareness of these types of cancers, from both general public and health care professionals. We can look out for odd lumps and bumps - I actually can recall feeling the lump (small) on the roof of my mouth, many many months before it was diagnosed - I just thought it was me, you know, just a part of me and had always been there.
No one needs to be scared - just aware. If there is a lump, blister or something odd in your mouth, get it checked - the worst it can be, well we know what that is, the best - it could save your life?! No brainer really!