NEIL HEGGIE’S STORY
Fundraiser Neil Heggie from Scotland has collected an impressive £219.66 simply by raising awareness of mouth cancer. Neil found a lump on his tongue in 2014 at the young age of 25. The news hit him hard. Here in his own words Neil Heggie tells his story. ”In 2014 I found a lump on my tongue. I had had ulcers on my tongue for 3 years before that, but the tests showed it wasn’t cancerous. I was only 25 at the time and it hit me hard.
The lump I found was cancer and I had 1/3 of my tongue removed and glands from my neck. I had 2 skin grafts to replace a part of my tongue; first they took the skin from my right wrist to recreate the tongue, then removed skin from my stomach to cover my wrist and a vein out of my right arm to replace a vein in my neck.
I had to learn how to speak, chew and swallow again. After I recovered, I had 30 treatments of radiotherapy and 1 out of 6 of chemotherapy as my body took a reaction to the treatment. Halfway through the treatment I stopped being able to eat or drink myself as my throat was very sore. I got a feeding tube fitted so I could be fed and take my any medication needed. I was hospitalised for most of the treatment as I was struggling, any of the supplement drinks or feeding they gave me made me sick, and I couldn’t keep any of it down.
I am having some after effects from the treatment, my thyroid gland is now underactive and I’m on Levothyroxine and a few other medicines. I also suffer from neck spasms where the muscles spasm and it is very painful.
I got my 4 year all clear at the start of July last year (2018) and by the end on the month I was back in Ninewell’s Hospital when my throat closed over and I could not swallow anything. The doctors couldn’t work out how over the space of 3 day I stop swallowing completely; to start with I was fitted with a nasogastric feeding tube and then a Rig feeding tube which goes into my stomach above my belly button. The doctors thought the cancer was back in my tonsils and my throat was covered in ulcers. They did biopsies and thankfully the cancer hadn’t returned but they didn’t have a cause for what happened. After about 4 weeks I turned a corner and started managing to swallow again and after 32 days in hospital I got home, but I still had the Rig feeding tube in.
I was closely monitored by the hospital again and over the next few months I had at least 8 infections as my immune system was very low again. The worst part of the infections was my mental health, my anxiety got very bad and at 1 stage I was scared to leave the hospital and then once I was home I couldn’t face leaving the house for 3 days. I got back to work part time at the beginning of October and my feeding tube removed in early November.
It is now the end of February 2019 and I am still having panic attacks of anxiety but I am trying to manage them better. I still get tired a lot if I have a busy day or a late night. The past year has affected me more than 2014, but I am still here and fighting”.