Leading Research into Head & Neck Cancer

Julian Gilbert story

Julian Gilbert Story

Early 2017, financial adviser Julian Gilbert of Harpenden faced the fight of his life when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Here he shares his story and why he chose to raise funds for Oracle.

“In the Summer of 2016, I felt like I was the fittest I had even been. I rode through The Alps, lost weight and felt physically on top of the world. However in December last year I noticed an uncomfortable “tickle” in my throat. I put it down to the busy social period leading up to Christmas, but the symptoms wouldn’t disappear and from time to time I was struggling to swallow.”

“I booked an appointment with the GP and was initially reviewed by the practice nurse who noticed that one of my tonsils was red and swollen, but painless. The nurse was baffled and asked the doctor to take a look. He prescribed antibiotics for two weeks and told me to return if my symptoms hadn’t cleared up.”

“On New Year’s Eve, I noticed blood in my saliva and was admitted to Luton and Dunstable Hospital. Following scans, biopsies and tests, my life completely changed. For what I thought would just be an infection, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. I hadn’t seen it coming at all.”

“It was heartbreaking telling my wife and young children about my illness and breaking the news to them was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have. I felt my whole life had been thrown into complete and utter turmoil. As a business owner my livelihood was in jeopardy too. It was a very stressful and emotional time.”

“My cancer treatment started in February 2017 at UCLH in London. My treatment consisted of six weeks of radiotherapy. I was nil by mouth; I couldn’t sleep at night.”

“I wasn’t able to eat or drink for seven weeks and I’m still not eating normally now six months later. I wouldn’t wish the treatment on my worst enemy. Head and neck cancer is tough – physically, mentally and emotionally.”  I was extremely fortunate that my cancer was diagnosed at an early stage. This meant that my prognosis was good and that, even though the treatment was more invasive than I’d expected, I was optimistic that my life would carry on.”

“On 30th June 2017, I was told I was cancer-free.”

Why Oracle?

“My doctor told me that if I’d had the same cancer 20 years ago, the radiotherapy would have been very unfocussed compared to what I had received today. For example I would have had all my teeth removed. Some of the drugs that helped me have only come on the market in the last five years.”

“I wanted to specifically support a head and neck cancer charity following my own experience of throat cancer. I wanted to help future patients to have a more comfortable experience and to give something back after the wonderful treatment I had received.”

“A specialist dietitian helping me during my treatment recommended I look at Oracle Cancer Trust and some of the pioneering work they do in cancer research. When I looked on Oracle’s website, the films I watched about other people’s experiences of head and neck cancer recorded exactly what I had been through.”

“After meeting the team from Oracle, they reassured me that the governance of the charity was second to none, giving complete transparency about where my fundraising would be directed. We also discussed the the opportunity to restrict the fundraising for a specific head and neck cancer research project.”

“During my recovery I garnered the support of a circle of friends and colleagues and set up my own events committee to raise funds for Oracle’s work, through a “Julian’s Journey” fundraising campaign.”

“I was truly humbled by the help of friends and family who supported me during my treatment and recovery and are now helping me on my journey to improve prospects for future head and neck cancer patients.”

“We’ve already completed a bike ride and successful quiz night, raising nearly £34,000 and have more events in the pipeline. The support I’ve also received from Oracle has been fantastic.”

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