David Beattie, 58, was diagnosed with throat cancer in June 2009. Now in remission, he shares his story of treatment in both Glasgow and London.
How were you first alerted to your cancer?
I noticed a lump that had appeared at the side of my neck, and I went to my doctor to have it diagnosed. He sent me to Nuffield Hospital saying there was an issue.
What was your initial reaction?
I had no pain or sick feeling, so the prognosis was a big shock. Frankly, I was numb.
What did you do first?
I informed my family – probably the hardest thing I had to do. I was referred to the Nuffield Hospital in Glasgow, and then to Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary, and the treatment and prognosis were confirmed after a scan. Things happened very quickly after that initial confirmation.
What was your treatment programme?
It was decided that my cancer was very aggressive, so they would come up with a programme that was aggressive enough to combat the disease. I initially had four treatments of chemotherapy at Nuffield, spaced out every three weeks. During that period I had dental work done, and they removed a back tooth as the planned radiotherapy could have caused an infection. I then went to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London for further treatment. I had two further courses of chemo before a six-week intensive radiotherapy treatment every day, Monday to Friday.
How did you find the staff at your hospitals?
Both hospitals were exceptional and staff were excellent. As I was a private patient I did notice a big difference in the care I was given, compared to NHS.
What was your support network like?
My family were superb, and I knew they struggled watching me fight the cancer and treatment. That caused me pain, watching their suffering.
Did you suffer any side-effects from the treatment?
One of the short-term issues was loss of hair from the chemo, but the hardest part was that the radio made it really difficult to eat or swallow. I lost 4st in weight – a hell of a way to go on a diet! I still suffer from dry mouth and have difficulty in eating certain foods, such as meat. My mouth is also very sensitive to any form of spices, which is a pain as I used to enjoy a curry. The eating is the main thing that’s hard to cope with.
I also suffered from depression, which still rears its ugly head.
Do you have any tips for living with the side-effects?
Frankly, I just get on with life as there is nothing that can be done. I try and think positively, but it can be hard at times as you sometimes wonder about your mortality.
How does your outlook on life compare now to before your diagnosis?
I try and take as many holidays as I can now, and savour the precious moments that I used to take for granted.
Any words of advice for others going through a similar experience?
It’s a harrowing experience, but it is one that you will come through and you will learn a lot about life, your friends and especially your family. It strangely makes you stop and look, and I think it makes you stronger.