;" />
DC Reinventing Hub

Reinventing support in the workplace: Mouth Cancer Action Month

In light of Mouth Cancer Action Month, which takes place in November every year, Tim Fox, Managing Director of our Consulting Line Of Business talks about his experiences of the disease and how t


In light of Mouth Cancer Action Month, which takes place in November every year, Tim Fox, Managing Director of our Consulting Line Of Business talks about his experiences of the disease and how to prevent it.

Cancer is never nice, but the thought of it in your mouth seems more invasive and personal. Eight years ago, I had major surgery to treat oral cancer and, as a survivor, I feel it’s important to share my experience to help others with prevention, early detection and awareness. I hope it will help people feel they can ask and talk about anything – plus it’s good therapy for me!

Early diagnosis

How you find out about oral cancer differs for everyone. For me, a regular dental check-up found what looked like three ulcers on the base of my tongue. It took some time to develop into full-blown cancer, but I was looking for signs and having check-ups by then.

The way to confirm cancer is through biopsy - cutting out a small piece of flesh and sending the cells for examination.

14-hour surgery

After diagnosis, I went to five hospitals in five days to have scans and meet my consultant surgeon for planning and updates. 11 days after diagnosis, I had an operation at Guy’s hospital in London. The operation lasted 14.5 hours and included complex multi-phase surgery, including:

  • Removing half my tongue and replacing it with a piece from my arm
  • Connecting blood vessels between the old and new pieces of tongue
  • Removing neck glands to test for cancer
  • Taking an artery from one arm - you have two in each - to pump oxygenated blood to the new side of my ‘tongue’
  • Grafting skin from my stomach to repair the arm.

I was fortunate my surgeon was Head of Head and Neck Cancer at Guy’s, and I received treatment that was unavailable 10 years earlier. I was also lucky to retain half my original tongue. Guy’s treatment, care and recovery support were excellent.

Short and long-term recovery

After leaving hospital, my recovery was good though I needed care at home. My wife administered antibiotics and food through my nose for some days and put up with me doing silly things like jogging up the garden and splitting the stitches in my stomach.

Some aspects of recovery were quick - others took longer. I had to learn techniques to speak, drink and eat again because my tongue is a different size and shape.

Positive prognosis

The cancer hadn’t spread, so I didn’t need further treatment. Thanks to reconstructive surgery on my tongue, I would be able to learn to speak, eat and drink again relatively normally. I can eat some things but not others. I stopped drinking alcohol for three years and now drink in moderation.

I was advised the arm with one remaining artery would always be weak, but after training it over a few years, it is now as strong as the other one. There are some ongoing niggles, including some nerve damage, but it’s relatively insignificant.

Mental health is a significant part of recovery. Talking to people and having them feel they can ask you anything was an essential aspect of recovery for me.

My attitude to people has changed – I’m more interested in helping others. I moved into consulting as a better fit for my desire to help develop and support people in the same industry. I have changed parts of my life outside work - I go to lots of comedy and music gigs, for example.

What to avoid

  • Smoking is the main cause of oral cancer - do anything you can to reduce or stop smoking
  • If you drink alcohol, wash your mouth out before bedtime; this stops the alcohol lying in your mouth overnight
  • Use non-alcoholic mouthwashes.

Mouth Cancer Action Month contains a host of information, including how to spot the signs and do regular checks.

As for me, I continue to feel stronger and healthier and hope to carry on living, talking, eating and drinking.

Support from Delta Capita

Delta Capita want all our employees to feel included, regardless of their background, beliefs, or whether they have any disability or medical condition. Employees that feel supported feel happier, and have more sense of belonging and engagement at work.

Are you looking for a new workplace that values diversity and employee wellbeing? Check out our latest vacancies.

Also find out how Delta Capita are reinventing the workplace through employee-centric projects at our Reinventing Hub.