Chris, 60, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2011, lost 12 stone in weight and describes how he ‘thought he was going to die’ when he was first given the devastating cancer diagnosis. He underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and two surgeries.
He said: “My world fell apart.”
But he threw himself into the Swallows Head and Neck Cancer charity and the charity has now helped more than 1500 people, offering a 24/7 support line for patients, carers and family members. He fully discharged from hospital in April 2017.
He now dedicates his life to supporting patients not just through diagnosis, but through recovery, too.
He said: “More people are surviving the disease, but it also means more people are having to live with the side effects of treatment.”
One of the most common side effects is dysphagia, the medical term for a difficulty being able to swallow.
This can be particularly difficult for patients who are required to take a lot of medication following their treatment.
Chris now champions Med-Easy™, a swallowing aid which help pills and tablets to flow down the throat more easily.
He said: “Dysphagia affects 50 to 60% of head and neck cancer survivors, which is a major concern up to one year after treatment is completed.
“Swallowing difficulties are also common during and after treatment because of the effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
“I still suffer from a dry mouth and struggle to take tablets because of the dryness.
“For me, the issue with swallowing tablets is they can also get stuck halfway down, and it’s not a nice feeling to have a tablet breaking down in the throat.”
“I have to take seven tablets a day and have had to develop my own method over time which includes a lot of water.
“I tried Med-Easy™ and it is the first time in six years that I have been able to take my tablets without this awkward method of trying to suspend my tablets in water so they go down.
“I found Med-Easy™ really simple to use and a much easier way to take my tablets. It means I will no longer have to worry.
“Head and neck cancer is a life-changing disease affecting all aspects of your life. Eating, swallowing, talking and socialising all become very difficult.
“Living with and beyond cancer is very hard but once you embrace and understand the side effects such as dry mouth, dysphagia, anxiety, weakness, tiredness and the unknown, then you can look to plan for the future and start to dream again.”In the UK there are around 12,000 new cases of head and neck cancer each year, and around 4,000 people die from the disease.