Former smoker, Stephen, aged 75, has battled cancer twice since quitting smoking.
After 46 years smoking Stephen successfully quit smoking, but the health affects of all those years smoking are still taking their toll on his health.
“Last year I was diagnosed with mouth cancer. I went to the dentist as I thought I had a chipped tooth but he noticed something he didn’t like and suggested that I should see my GP. Two weeks later a biopsy told me it was cancer. This time it was in my tongue. I had surgery through my cheek to remove the cancerous cells. The surgery has left me with a shorter tongue, which means my speech can be a bit wonky and it’s harder to eat my food. I have no saliva now and even to eat a bit of chocolate I need a gallon of water.
“I would urge anybody with a niggle in their mouth to go to their dentist and have it checked.
“This was my second bout of cancer in 2009 I was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, which is a cancer that starts in your voice box. The doctor wanted to take out my voice box but I went through 35 doses of radiation, over seven weeks, along with a weekly chemotherapy session. The treatments would nearly kill you. You lose all track of life when you’re in the middle of it.
Why I QUIT
"Why did I QUIT? I got an offer I couldn’t refuse!
“I was told by the nurse that either my leg was going to come off or I had to stop smoking.
“That was 14 years ago and I haven’t smoked since but I’m not saying I don’t occasionally have a longing for one.
“I did find it hard to quit smoking and I went cold turkey but I got lots of support from my family. I also gave up drinking which helped break the addiction. Since that conversation, I can honestly say that I never smoked since.
“My leg with the blocked arteries is still very sore. The hospital tried to clean the arteries but it was only partially successful. Now I’m in constant agony, the pain is there 24/7. I used to love rambling but now I can’t walk anywhere, I can’t even go on holidays. It’s a bit of a nuisance.
“Today I’m due to go back into hospital to see if they can operate to put in a plastic vein to clear the blocked arteries in my bad leg. I’m hoping to hear good news. But unfortunately I have ulcers between my toes so I think they’ll postpone the surgery for another week. I can’t afford to allow any infection spread from the ulcers into the bad leg.
“This is the last chance salon for me and my leg. If the surgery is a success then it’ll be great but if it doesn’t work then I’m afraid they can’t do anything more. Fingers crossed that tomorrow when I meet the doctor my surgery can go ahead.
“Nearly 50 years ago, I married my wife Sheila and had three wonderful children – 2 girls and a boy. I have nine grandchildren now, the oldest is 18 years and Eoin the youngest was seven years old on Monday. As their granddad I want to see them all do well. They all have their own little things they are into and I want to be around for them as long as possible.
Did you know that smoking tobacco – cigarettes, roll-ups, pipes or cannabis - increases your risk of developing mouth cancer? If you want help to QUIT smoking, the phone the QUIT Team on 1800 201 203 and talk to our trained advisors. We also provide individual and group support at 74 clinics around Ireland – all free of charge. Call 1800 201 203 or log onto www.quit.ie to find out more.
If you are concerned about mouth cancer, or any other type of cancer, you can call the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700.