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Tongue cancer survivor

I stuck my tongue out to cancer

“I owned cancer rather than letting it own me,” says Dev Madhavan who has written a book about his experience called Tongue Cancer and I.

“My life was going along on auto-pilot and then wham everything changed the moment I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. It just came out of the blue.”

Dev initially found himself consoling his mother rather than himself as she had already lost a sister to cancer.

“You really see what is important in life and it isn’t your car your job or your house. It’s your health. It is the most important thing you have because you can’t do much without it.”

Dev, who doesn’t smoke and is a regular gym goer, originally noticed a white spot on the side of his tongue. It grew into the size of a two pence piece and then began protruding outward at an alarming rate.

He saw his GP and was quickly referred to head and neck cancer surgeon Abdul Ahmed to hear the results of his biopsy.

Mr Ahmed said “Mouth cancers are usually associated with excessive drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco but it can affect people who physically healthy. It’s just bad luck sometimes.”

Dev found himself approaching the challenge in the same way he did as an IT Project manager looking for the best solution.

“I began gathering all the facts together and organised my life accordingly so I had some control over it and could be proactive. My family played a huge role in helping me get through this along with the NHS.

“A group of clinical experts called a multi-disciplinary team were assigned to me and it was great to know they were in my corner. Cancer is a personal struggle and you can feel very alone so I appreciated being able to talk with them leading up to the operation.”

Dev subsequently underwent a ten hour procedure at Northwick Park Hospital which included removing the tumour in his tongue and replacing it with a flap of skin from his lower arm.

A vein was also taken from the arm provided a blood supply to the transplanted skin. Surgeons removed dozens of lymph nodes from his neck to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread into his lymphatic system.

Dev spent nearly ten days in hospital and it was here he began writing a journal.

“I found journaling really helpful. It is a type of therapy in itself allowing me to clarify what I was feeling and release all my feelings and frustrations onto paper.”

This included a six week course of radiotherapy requiring daily hospital visits and working with a speech and language therapist to learn to speak again.

“It has been a long journey but I am in a happier healthier place now and my advice to anyone facing a challenge is to stay positive and keep moving forward.

Tongue Cancer and I by Dev Madhavan is available on Amazon.

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