To receive the news “You have cancer” is a life changing experience.
In November 2014, Nigel Lloyd-Jones was diagnosed with cancer. He has chosen to share his story, in his own words, to illustrate how he and his wife coped with the diagnosis and ensuing treatment.
To receive the news “You have cancer” is a life changing experience. For Nigel Lloyd-Jones and his wife Sheena this was particularly shocking as, prior to the diagnosis, Nigel had been fit and well with a busy career. The lump on his neck had been inspected by his GP several times and when finally removed, was described by the medical team as, “looking benign”. Biopsy results, however, revealed a Head and Neck cancer, diagnosed as a squamous cell carcinoma with no evidence of a primary cancer.
The initial treatment recommendation was for a radical neck dissection, further biopsies and continuing treatment. Having discovered that a second opinion was a patient’s right and, with the help and support of his immediate family, Nigel was referred to The Royal Marsden Hospital where he met Professor Chris Nutting and his team. The Royal Marsden was Nigel’s family’s natural choice. His mother, has a 28 year relationship with ‘The Friends of The Royal Marsden’ charity and both his father and brother-in-Law were treated there. Almost immediately after referral, Professor Nutting recommended a course of radiotherapy, with surgery as an option, albeit a last resort.
With 30 treatments scheduled over a six week period, everything was going well up until the 17th treatment when the side effects of the Radiotherapy started to become manifest. Not only did Nigel lose his sense of taste but his mouth and throat became very sore. Swallowing and eating became increasingly difficult and he was becoming more and more tired. On top of this he was losing weight. Sheena picks up the story;
“During Nigel’s radiotherapy, no-one at the hospital could truly articulate quite how tough the side effects would be and how we, as a family, were expected to cope. As a result of contacting Oracle Cancer Trust we spoke to Bob Howes and his wife Jenny, who had been through similar treatment. Speaking to a couple who had already trodden the same path was incredibly supportive and helpful.”
With the constant reassurance of The RMH Nutritionists Sheena explored many dietary options. “Sometimes I had to prepare three different dishes for one meal, just to find something that Nigel could eat.”
On Christmas Eve, the treatment ended and Nigel and Sheena returned home to Cheltenham. The next 3 months proved intensely challenging as, despite the support of friends and family, the side effects of treatment dominated every waking moment. However, positive signs were on the way. During a routine check- up visit to The Royal Marsden, Nigel was able to eat an egg sandwich (minus the crusts) which had been prepared, so fittingly, by one of the volunteers in the ‘Friends Café’.
Six months on from completion of treatment Nigel is making great progress and the side effects are decreasing. Scans show that, so far, he is clear. Furthermore, Professor Nutting is confident that Nigel will, over time, make a full recovery from all the side effects. Nigel concludes, “I can so understand that after a cancer diagnosis a patient could go into a state of shock and passively accept whatever is recommended. For Sheena and me, taking ownership of my condition, drawing on my family experience, reaching out to get other opinions along with the outstanding support of Professor Nutting and his team was incredibly helpful in bringing me to the positive place where I am today.”
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Oracle Cancer Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (1142037). A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales (7125497). Registered address: 10 Parsons Green House, 27 Parsons Green Lane, London SW6 4HH.