Jim's story – finding strength in my support group

Thursday 30 January 2020

Maggie's Lanarkshire

Getting over treatment for mouth cancer was tough. My Maggie's support group really helped.

Treatment was traumatic

I was first diagnosed in July 2015, after a routine visit to my dentist, who noticed two minor spots on the floor of my mouth that looked like mouth ulcers. I had no symptoms, no pain and no idea that they were there. 

Within a week of being diagnosed, I was in hospital for a 12 and a half hour operation. To say it was invasive was an understatement. It was horrendous, but it saved my life. 

The recovery was long and hard. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t eat, so I was fed through a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy). Psychologically I was in a very, very low place. I was thinking, ‘Am I going to get through this?’. That was when I was pointed towards Maggie’s. 

Finding support

I joined the head and neck cancer support group, who meet once a month at Maggie’s. I’ve found the group to be no end of help. Because everyone is going through the same thing, we can talk openly about how we’re feeling and swap advice and tips on managing symptoms. 

There are lots of symptoms and side effects unique to head and neck cancers. For example, my diet is restricted to soft foods, such as porridge, soups and mashed meals. I do miss steaks! Also, the inside of my tongue feels like strands of tissue and my nerves are agitated all the time, so I have great problems sleeping. 

Being able to talk to people who are going through or have been through the same thing has been very helpful indeed.

Maggie's has been a huge part of my recovery

It’s not just talking about the cancer side of things, there’s lots of socialising in the support group too.  

We go on group walks around various country parks and recently went on a day trip together to the Robbie Burns Centre in Ayr. At the request of my fellow group members, I took my bagpipes along and played outside the centre. This felt like a big moment, as after my surgery, I thought my playing days were over.

At first, I didn’t think Maggie’s was for me, but it has been such a huge part of my recovery. They were there when I needed it most, and that was lovely. To anybody who is going through a head and neck cancer or any other form of cancer, I’d say just come in, because there’s strength in numbers. You’re talking to people who care, and people who have been through it.

Here with you

If you, your family or friends need support during this time, please call us on 0300 123 180, email enquiries@maggies.org or book a time to visit us.

If you're already visiting the hospital, just come in.

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