"It is just over six months now since I first discovered the loose tooth that led to me needing cancer surgery at Addenbrooke’s. It all happened so quickly: I went from having toothache to a major operation in just a few weeks. I want to take this chance to share what the experience has meant to me – and to explain why I’m certain that any donation you make today will make a real difference to people who find themselves in a similar situation to me.
The first thing I’ll say is that I can’t speak highly enough of my surgeon Malcolm Cameron and everyone who helped to look after me at Addenbrooke’s. With cancer, you’re talking about life and death, aren’t you? I have absolutely no doubt that the Addenbrooke’s team saved my life. If the bone and tumour hadn’t been removed from my jaw, I probably wouldn’t be writing to you now.
I was told it was a slow-growing cancer, but to be honest I felt like it was galloping inside me. A couple more teeth got loose in a matter of weeks after I was told it was cancer, and you start imagining the worst, don’t you? It’s very unnerving when you hear that you’ve got something in your body that’s determined to kill you, and that’s how I felt. So, to be told that you can get rid of it safely so that it is no longer a threat is an amazing relief. I will always, always be grateful to Malcolm and the team for that. As I said, they saved my life.
From the very beginning I felt very reassured by Malcolm. Like anybody else I was frightened to death of cancer, but Malcolm seemed completely confident he could fix it, and when someone says that and you can see in their body language that they believe it, you believe them too.
That didn’t stop me feeling absolutely terrified on the day of the operation though: it’s the uncertainty and not knowing what you are going to be like afterwards. This was my first operation and it’s very difficult to get your mind around. I told Malcolm I was worried to death and he said, ‘I’m sure you are – this is your first time. I do this sort of thing every week, so just leave it to me and go to sleep’. It was exactly what I needed to hear. His whole manner was brilliant – you always got the sense he was constantly thinking about the patients and putting them first.
In fact the same is true for everyone I met at Addenbrooke’s. People were very caring, and whenever I wanted something they were there. My family were well looked after too. I asked Malcolm to make sure there was someone there to talk to me when I came to after the operation, and that was exactly what happened. Things like that really matter.
I worked as an engineer for years, and the use of these cutting-edge scans in the surgery did appeal to that part of me. Malcolm actually showed me the 3D models that were made overseas. He used them to know exactly where to cut the bone in my mouth and where to cut the bone in my leg so it fitted in my mouth.
Having access to that level of information really is remarkable. It reduces the risks so much. But as an engineer I also know how important it is to have everything you are working on under your control, and that isn’t the case for Malcolm at the moment.
I think having the 3D scans and models made overseas has been extremely difficult for the team. It would be so much better to have that new cone beam scanner in the hospital at Addenbrooke’s, so the cutting guides and jigs could be made more quickly and tweaked on site. The scanner could be used for a lot of other illnesses too, so your donation would help a lot of people.
As for me, I’m continuing to recover now – and the great thing is that I do still have a future. There was a time before the operation when I was getting nervous that we wouldn’t get the cancer out quick enough. I kept thinking it could spread to the rest of my jawbone or elsewhere in my body.
But Malcolm is confident the surgery has worked well. It may even be possible in the future to use the cone beam scanner to help put more teeth back into my jaw. That would be great – you don’t want to look like Steptoe from that old TV show Steptoe & Son, do you?
More than anything, I want to focus on my family now. I’ve got two daughters and grandchildren, and the future is very important to me. I want to see them all blossom.
These things are only possible because Malcolm and his team at Addenbrooke’s were able to save my life, so I hope you will make a donation today. They are a remarkable team, and this scanner would help so many more people to cope and recover when they get the kind of shocking news I was given last summer. "
- Colin Clarke