What Irene thought might be a mouth ulcer or sore throat turned out to be stage 4 cancer. Her oesophagus was damaged and the tumour so widespread that her tongue, larynx and pharynx were removed.
That was in April 2015 when she was given only a 20 per cent chance of surviving a complex 18-hour operation, including a tracheotomy, which was eventually followed by intensive radiotherapy.
The mother-of-four can sadly no longer perform the simple bodily functions most people take for granted after undergoing major head and neck surgery and one side effect of treatment was severe facial swelling.
Irene was referred to St Ann’s Hospice at Little Hulton where a regular programme of treatment as an outpatient means she is now quite literally able to smile again.
Here Irene shares her story and experience of St Ann’s.
I was very upset about the swelling because I had no expressions. It was hard to communicate with people because they could not read my face. Because I can’t speak I do most of my shopping online, though I don’t buy much because I can’t eat.
Irene was treated by our Macmillan Lymphoedema Specialist Fiona Sanderson (pictured above and below), who said “Irene is amazing and there’s hardly any swelling left. She has had low level laser treatment to soften up scar tissue while manual lymphatic drainage has re-directed the fluid and Irene has also been using self-help techniques. Irene has shared a lot with me and has worked really hard at this and I’m glad she has got the results she wanted. She sent me a thank you card and jokingly wrote ‘thanks for giving me my wrinkles back.”
I live alone but get a lot of pleasure from my six beautiful grandchildren and my garden. Now the kids know what I mean when I look at them. Fiona and St Ann’s have given me my confidence back and I enjoy coming here – it’s also a day out for me. I’d like to thank St Ann’s Hospice for giving me my face back. I was unaware of this clinic and I’m sure a lot of people don’t know the miracles they can work.
Irene is driven to her appointments at the hospice by volunteer driver, Dilip (pictured below), and she uses a notepad and pen to converse.
Irene has worked extremely hard, determined to see her grandchildren grow up, she is still monitored closely but thankfully she is clear of cancer.