A mum is raising money and awareness for a lesser known type of cancer, after undergoing robotic surgery to remove part of her tongue.
Sue Ahmad hosts a ‘CR7 Charity Fun Day’, in aid of head and neck cancer care at the Cancer Centre at Guy’s.
The event, which includes a bake off judged by Jairzeno from The Great British Bake Off, arts and crafts workshops, a raffle, karaoke and much more, is on Saturday 26 March from noon at The Prince George Pub in Thornton Heath, Croydon.
On New Year’s Eve in 2018, Sue Ahmad, 52, was diagnosed with throat cancer after noticing a lump in her neck. The former teaching assistant said: “I first noticed the lump in June that year. I went to my GPs several times who thought I had an ear infection, so it took months before I finally received my diagnosis.”
Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer globally, with more than 650,000 people diagnosed annually. Around 1,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every month.
After being referred to the Cancer Centre at Guy’s, Sue was told that she had cancer in her lymph node although the primary source wasn’t immediately obvious despite multiple scans. Sue required diagnostic throat surgery to identify the primary source of the cancer, which was found to be a 2mm tumour.
Sue then underwent state-of-the-art Transoral Robotic Surgery using a da Vinci robot to completely remove the cancer from the back of her throat (the oropharynx). She also required a neck operation to remove 43 lymph nodes, including the cancerous one, in March 2019. Following this, Sue then had to undergo a course of radiotherapy.
The mother-of-one said: “The treatment was brutal. I had to be fed via a tube and I was hospitalised for two weeks during my radiotherapy as I didn’t cope well with the feeding tube.
“The staff at Guy’s are second to none and despite how difficult it was, the treatment I received was incredible. Though I’ve been given my life back and I am extremely grateful, the recovery was, and continues to be really difficult.
“The radiotherapy destroyed my saliva glands so I need to drink water with every bite of food. The muscles in my neck have also been affected which means I struggle with swallowing. These are just some of the issues that affect people like me who have had head and neck cancer that I want to raise awareness of through my fundraising.”
The money raised will go toward the recently announced Guy’s Head and Neck Cancer Centre, which brings together a diverse range of programmes to offer patients the best possible care. The centre aims to speed up the diagnosis for head and neck cancer patients and improve the ways they are treated for their condition by using the very latest surgical technologies to minimise side-effects, maximising treatment effectiveness and reducing rates of recurrence.
Some of the main focuses of Guy’s Head and Neck Cancer centre are around pioneering minimally invasive robotic surgery and survivorship; improving the long-term care for patients like Sue who have received treatment for head and neck cancer. Many are left with ongoing medical needs as a result of the treatment they have received, including physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and psychological care.
Sue said: “Much of life’s enjoyment is from speaking, eating, drinking and for many people who’ve been treated for head and neck cancer, those simple things are really badly affected. When I heard about the survivorship projects of Guy’s Head and Neck Cancer, I knew I wanted to fundraise and raise awareness of the ongoing care that people like myself need.”
Sue has already organised other events, including an online letter writing workshop where people can lift the spirits of a stranger who is receiving cancer treatment by writing them a letter. Sue is also planning a sponsored walk on Sunday 24 April.
Mr Asit Arora, robotic head and neck surgical lead and European proctor for Transoral Robotic Surgery, said: “I am so proud of Sue and it is a testament to her courage and bravery that she remains cancer free nearly 3 years following completion of treatment.
“It really is incredible to see Sue doing so much to support some of the pioneering work we are engaged in to help our patients beat Head and Neck Cancer. The fact that Sue has done so much fundraising to help patient care, having undergone treatment for head and neck cancer herself, is also a testament to her strength.
“I’d like to wish Sue and her family a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the entire team at the Cancer Centre at Guy’s.”
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