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Cancer campaign fronted by Grantham area woman

A Castle Bytham woman is fronting a Christmas campaign aimed at people with loved ones who have had throat or mouth cancer.

The Throat Cancer Foundation campaign asks friends and family to be mindful that the festive period, in particular Christmas lunch and social events, brings with it challenges for patients and survivors.

It features single mum-of-one Tracey Longmuir, who faces many struggles after life-altering treatment from stage two tongue cancer in 2014, and the depression that followed as a result. She often feels anxiety from fear of choking in public and as a result of her treatments, no longer has a desire to eat food.

Tracey Longmuir after surgery. (24597388)
Tracey Longmuir after surgery. (24597388)

Tracey, 45, said: “My little boy was only two years old when I started my radiotherapy. I was self- employed at the time as a dog walker and the owner of a doggy day care centre so I ended up losing my business.

“The last six months of that year was horrific. I remember setting myself a goal that by Christmas I’d be able to eat properly. I failed.I ended up having to cook it and then couldn’t eat it without blitzing it. It was emotionally shattering.

“I remember drinking Baileys that night and then woke up the next day to a mouth that was so sore and covered in ulcers and blisters, I was devastated. It was the beginning a few very dark months, which fell into a depression and anxiety for a couple of years at least.”

Tracey Longmuir and her son at Christmas. (24597385)
Tracey Longmuir and her son at Christmas. (24597385)

By March, Tracey was taking anti-depressants and undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy.

She added: “It was the following Christmas by the time I was able to chew meat without worrying too much about choking, as long as it was smothered in gravy.

“The festive period was really difficult for me. I completely fell out of love with food. I still have no drive or desire to eat but I know I have to.”

Eating out was also difficult.

Tracey Longmuir has been left with a scar following surgery for tongue cancer. (24597390)
Tracey Longmuir has been left with a scar following surgery for tongue cancer. (24597390)

“It started to become a bit of a joke, where I’d put my hand up if people were talking to me while I was eating, just so they knew I’d heard them and to give me time to finish eating,” she said.

“Even now I still have a real dread of eating. I try to forget and carry on as normal but it’s not nice.

“I still have that emotional turmoil. No-one explains that the new you won’t like food anymore, and that it won’t taste the same and it won’t look the same to you.”

Treatment for cancer of the mouth or throat can leave people with many life-changing struggles. They may have had their salivary glands destroyed as a result of treatment and find eating and drinking laborious. They may have a feeding peg fitted, or part of their tongue, throat or teeth removed.

Tips to help them at this time of year include: calling restaurants ahead to ask for smaller portions or pureed food; ensuring there is plenty of sauce in dishes and cooking food to a soft consistency; don’t add any pressure when socialising to eat or drink; and let the patient choose what to eat rather than pile food on a plate.

Jamie Rae, chief executive of the Throat Cancer Foundation, said: “We are keen to raise awareness of the difficulties and harsh reality that many with throat cancer face during times like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and Tracey’s story provides a heart-rending insight into this.”

Find further guidance at www.throatcancerfoundation.org

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