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Date: 03 October 2022
A father of two from Fareham, who is being treated for tonsil cancer at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, is sharing his journey online to raise awareness about the disease.
George Light, 48, was diagnosed in May with a squamous cell cancer in his left tonsil which had spread to the lymph nodes in his neck. His cancer was caused by a virus known as human papilloma virus (HPV). This is now the commonest cause of tonsil cancers in the UK.
He has just completed a six-week radiotherapy and chemotherapy course at the hospital and has been documenting his treatment with a GoPro and sharing videos on his Instagram account @georgelight74.
Business owner George explains why he thinks it’s important to share his story with others: “I decided to film my treatment for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to be able to provide a visual and physical resource to anyone that might be facing a similar situation.
“I want to show them that if you choose to take a positive approach to such a big issue it will help you focus on getting through a bad period by making the very best of the situation you can. It still might be absolutely awful, but I believe even the worst situation can be made to feel slightly better by smiling or being positive about it.
“Secondly, it helps me to talk about what I am going through and provide an insight into what my family and friends are going through with me. It eases the pressure for me to walk around and pretend everything is great all the time (the reality is that sometimes it is not).
“I am not afraid to express my fears and admit I have cried and been anxious at times. By emoting these feelings, it hopefully shows it is normal and acceptable to not be ok sometimes, once I have dealt with those emotions its far easier to pick myself up and become more positive and start again.
George believes it’s important more men talk openly about cancer, he says: “I think men don’t really consider cancer as a common illness for them, when we hear about cancer it is most commonly announced with breast cancer, some prostate awareness is visible but in general I think it’s more aimed at women in the media and awareness wise.
“My male friends have had mixed emotions and responses to the fact I have cancer. I would say more of them have struggled to speak to me head on about it and deal with the emotion of it….”
George first noticed something was not right at the beginning of this year – he was suffering from bad breath and could feel a lump in his throat near his tonsil, as well as experiencing some discomfort when eating and cleaning his teeth.
He was initially thought to have thrush and then tonsilitis, before being fast tracked to QA Hospital where he underwent several tests and scans which confirmed he had throat cancer.
George said: “I felt perfectly normal in myself with the symptoms, I just had a bit of discomfort in my mouth, but my general health was good. I had assumed it was a cyst or something that would resolve itself and disappear. I had no indication that it could be anything like cancer.”
Following the diagnosis, George had to have three teeth removed in preparation for the treatment and was then fitted with a radiotherapy mask before his treatment began in August.
He continued: “My experience to date has been amazing, every single person that I have been in contact with at Queen Alexandra Hospital has expressed compassion, empathy, care, concern, professionalism and dedication way beyond what I would expect. Right from the people on reception at radiotherapy who check me in everyday, the lady who greets me at the door to walk me round, the chemo nurses that take time to sit and talk to me and comfort me when I am crying due to anxiety about the treatment through to the dietician and Cancer Nurse Specialist (Sharon) I could personally not ask for any more from any individual.”
George is planning to marry his beloved partner Karina next year and is grateful for his children and grandchildren, who he says have been a great support to him throughout the treatment. Now he hopes that by documenting his journey he can help others spot the signs and talk more openly about cancer.
He said: “If I can also raise awareness to the symptoms, the HPV vaccine or anything else related to this cancer it will make a huge difference for me personally, as the thought of someone seeing my posts or story and then seeking vaccinations for their child, treatment or assessment for themselves, or talking to someone else about a sore throat they are suffering from that could be cancer would be the most rewarding thought possible for me personally.
“I would also like to make sure that I am contactable to those that are going through or are going to go through something similar to hopefully provide a valuable resource and support network for someone else.”
You can follow George and his story on Instagram @georgelight74.
* Head and neck cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cancer. Around 12,400 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year.
* HPV is a very common group of viruses.
* HPV does not usually cause any symptoms.
* There are many types of HPV, some of which are called "high risk" because they're linked to the development of cancers, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancers, and genital warts.
* In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years are offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination programme. The HPV vaccine helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, including:
- some cancers of the anal and genital areas
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