It was supposed to be a routine trip to the dentist – but it ended with a Middlesbrough mum locked in a battle with tongue cancer.
When Sally Timney went for a check-up, her dentist noticed a tiny white line on her tongue.
Within weeks, it had been diagnosed as cancerous, leaving her needing laser treatment and surgery to remove lymph nodes and a tongue tumour.
Thankfully, 10 years after her scare, she remains cancer free.
But with the disease capable of hitting any one at any time, Sally is sharing her story as part of the annual “Stand Up To Cancer” campaign.
And by posing with two wristbands on her arms, she’s highlighting the number of people diagnosed with cancer every hour in North-east England.
Early diagnosis the key
Mum of one Sally, 43, of Acklam, admits her tongue cancer scare in 2007 was a huge shock.
And she believes early diagnosis is the reason she’s still here.
She said: “My dentist spotted a tiny white line about 2mm long. She said she wasn’t sure what it was and asked me to come back a week later to see if it was still there. It didn’t go away so the following week, my dentist referred me to hospital for a biopsy.
“Three weeks later, I went back to hospital for the results and was told I had tongue cancer. It was such a shock – I was completely numb and couldn’t hear a word the consultant was saying. I had an MRI to see if it had spread, which showed that one of my lymph nodes was affected too.”
Cancer has changed me
“I had surgery to remove the lymph nodes from my neck and the tumour on my tongue was lasered away. My mouth was bruised and swollen after surgery and it was tricky to talk, but my speech is fine now.
“My consultant told me that it had been an aggressive form of cancer and that it was lucky I hadn’t missed my check-up at the dentist. If I’d left it for another few months it might have spread.
“The experience of having cancer has changed me as a person. I don’t take things too seriously and I try to be positive and bubbly. I’ve also changed my career – I used to be a delivery driver but I’ve since graduated with a degree in counselling and now I work for a mental health charity.
“I’m living proof that early diagnosis saves lives. That’s why I’m giving my heartfelt support to Stand Up To Cancer.”
Stars battling tongue cancer
Mental health charity worker Sally’s tongue cancer story is all the more relevant after two high-profile personalities were recently diagnosed with it.
Last month, one of the original members of Bucks Fizz, The Fizz singer Jay Aston, had part of her tongue removed and replaced with skin from her leg.
And on Wednesday, BBC Radio presenter Mark Radcliffe tweeted that he, too, had been diagnosed with tongue cancer.
He posted: “Now – here’s a thing – I’m sad to say that I’ve got some cancerous tongue and lymph node issues and so, as I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m going to be disappearing for a while. It’s all been caught very early and so everything should be fine.” He ended: “Life, eh?”
Plea to get involved
A joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, Stand Up To Cancer raises money to speed up life-saving research.
Sally added: “Whether you donate, get sponsored to wear orange from head to toe or organise your own bake sale, there are lots of ways to get involved. I really hope as many people as possible will get behind this vitally important campaign because together, we can wipe the floor with cancer.”
A free pack of fun-filled fundraising ideas is available now. Cancer Research UK shops are also stocking a fun range of clothing and accessories.
£38m and counting…
Jaelithe Leigh-Brown, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for North-east England, said: “We’re so grateful to Sally for leading the charge against cancer and helping recruit more people to the cause.
“The good news is more people are surviving than ever before, but too many lives are still cut short by this devastating disease.”
She continued: “By supporting Stand Up To Cancer people in Middlesbrough could help to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. The more people that join the fight now, the sooner we can beat cancer for everyone.”
Stand Up To Cancer has raised £38m since it was launched in the UK in 2012. The funding is used for clinical trials and projects which accelerate the development of new cancer treatments and tests, to help patients and ultimately save more lives.
This year, Stand Up To Cancer will culminate with a night of live TV on Channel 4, on Friday, October 26.