Patient view

Patient View: Our wonderful support from head and neck cancer specialist

Specialist nurse Sandra Jackson has made life manageable for Kylee and Jerry Green.

Specialist nurse Sandra Jackson has made life manageable for Kylee and Jerry Green.

Mouth cancer examination. Photo: iStock

My husband Jerry was diagnosed with mouth cancer in January 2014 aged 45.

A month later he went in for an operation and had a radical neck dissection. The floor of his mouth was replaced with skin from his forearm and part of his tongue was removed.

He went on to have chemo and radiotherapy, and finished treatment in June 2014. But a fistula opened a few weeks later and he develops infections every six to eight weeks.

Getting the support needed

In May 2015 he was diagnosed with osteoradionecrosis. Macmillan head and neck specialist nurse Sandra Jackson was a great support and still is.

Head and neck cancer can give severe side effects, some short term and some permanent, including problems with eating and with speech, as well as changing a person’s appearance.

I can phone or email Sandra with any concern, and she will talk through the problem and answer my questions honestly.

Positive thoughts

Before Jerry was diagnosed with osteoradionecrosis he had many tests to rule out a recurrence – there is a 50% chance within two years – and it was difficult to stay positive.

But Sandra’s support made life much more manageable. She has replied to my emails outside her working hours, which shows her commitment to her patients.

Sandra started the monthly Moving on from Head and Neck Cancer patient support group at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood many years ago.

We attended the group and received practical support and advice from people who had been through the same situation.

Help is on hand

We attend every month now and offer support to patients before treatment and just after. The group is meant to finish at 5.30pm but because Sandra has so many patients she does not leave until gone 6pm at the earliest, even though she has two children at home who need her.

Sandra also runs a two-day Moving on from Head and Neck Cancer workshop. It consists of lectures and talks by healthcare professionals and a patient about recovering from treatment, and helps people to have the best quality of life possible.

Sandra gives up her time to attend patients’ fundraisers, including a Saturday when she joined the support group for a Mouth Cancer Foundation 10km walk.

Sandra gives so much time to all of us.

She truly is exceptional.

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