Dean Jaggard, 47 from Cressing shares his cancer story and how the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity helped him through his treatment.
“Having worked in the auto industry for over 30 years and at the age of 45, I decided to book my own health MOT and boy was I glad I did!
I had gone private with BUPA to undergo a health check up and physical examination in Brentwood and during the check the doctor had found a lump on my neck; I hadn’t noticed it before. My GP in Braintree immediately sent me to the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford. The consultant there gave me the once over, looked down my throat and requested a biopsy. CT and MRI scans were to follow quickly and my tonsil was removed before the diagnosis was eventually made; tonsil cancer.
You know that feeling when your legs turn to jelly? Fortunately I was sitting down. Cancer couldn’t be happening to me surely? My wife Sara and I had only been married for seven months and we had so many plans for the future together; soon I was going to wake up from this nightmare.
It took a couple of minutes for me to pull myself back together in that consultation room with Sara by my side. What did I need to do next? My consultant Dr Hamid wanted me to visit my dentist for an X-ray to find out the strength of my jaw and teeth for upcoming radiotherapy. I was onto the phone to them immediately, explained my situation, had an appointment that afternoon and wasn’t charged a penny.
My cancer treatment commenced with a port being placed in my neck to administer the drugs, followed by an intense six week programme of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I also had a stomach tube fitted as I was told at some point I wouldn’t be able to eat or talk. I had also been told gentle exercise would help the side effects of treatment so after one of my first sessions, my neighbour and I decided to go for a little walk. That night I was sick as a dog and vowed to take it easier with myself!
It was while sitting in the reception area waiting for my next treatment I got chatting to another patient about the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity. I had been looking for some kind of support to keep me positive and focused during this period in my life and the charity sounded just what I needed. I started visiting counsellor Debbie every couple of weeks to chat through my thoughts and feelings. She helped me come to terms with the seriousness of my situation and made sense of the dark side of how I was feeling; such a comfort at a very traumatic time.
I finished my treatment on the 6th June 2019; what a relief but the hard times weren’t over yet. For the first two weeks I couldn’t eat and had to use a syringe for food. I couldn’t stand strong smells and my voice disappeared. To help with the food and water syringes I devised a timetable written up on a white board and with the use of an alarm I could easily keep track of which to take and when.
I also started a Facebook group about my passion for classic cars which really took my mind off the dreadful time I was going through. I later added a fundraising page to my group to donate to HRCC which generated over £700; I was chuffed to bits as members of the group I hadn’t even met had donated! It was also a subtle way to inform friends and family who didn’t know about my cancer journey.
Cancer has certainly changed me; I now embrace my life. I returned to work on a part time basis on 1st September 2019; my voice has returned and I can eat normally. Thanks to Debbie at Helen Rollason Cancer Charity I feel like I have my life back again; everyone at the Mid Essex Support Centre in Hatfield Peverel is so welcoming and friendly. The charity has been my salvation and I owe a great deal of debt to this organisation”.