Mouth Cancer Action Month

The fight against mouth cancer is a hard and difficult task but with his family and friends by his side every step of the way David Shakesby was determined to emulate his sci-fi idols and battle it bravely.

For father of one David, from Loughborough, being diagnosed with mouth cancer at the age of 39 was a complete shock; one which has turned his life and that of his family upside down.

David took pride in his oral health and visited the dentist every six months and right up until his diagnosis he hardly ever had any oral health problems. But in April 2015 he knew something was wrong and during his regular check-up he got the news he had been dreading.

David had been experiencing pain in his mouth when he ate, and after a previous scare two years prior in which a biopsy gave him the all clear, always paid close attention to what was going on in his mouth.

As a non-smoker and only occasional drinker, David would not usually be considered a high risk when it comes to a mouth cancer diagnosis. So when his dentist rushed him for checks at the Leicester Royal Infirmary it was a sign that something was truly wrong.

Just a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday, David received the news which would change his life; he was told he had mouth cancer.

David’s cancer originated at the back of his tongue, where many HPV related cancers start, and his initial course of treatment involved having part of it removed in an attempt to stop the cancer in its tracks.

His treatment moved as quick as the flash and after two operations, and also spending his 40th birthday in hospital recovering, he was told his treatment has been successful and his tumour had gone.

But this was far from the end of David’s battle.

After recovering well, his world was once again sent into a spin when, just a few short months later, during a routine check, David’s doctor found lump in his neck. His cancer had spread into his lymph nodes.

A third gruelling operation followed in the autumn but, unfortunately, surgeons were unable to remove the tumour and more devastating news followed when they confirmed that his cancer was a particular aggressive type.

With all his surgery options, exhausted David was told he would have to undertake a gruelling six weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which finished in January this year. Following a recent scan David’s tumour is his chest has decreased in size and his battle against mouth cancer continues.

David and his family have had even more hurdles thrown in their way as during his ordeal they has also had to come to terms with the sad loss of his father from leukaemia. David’s parents and sister have been his support network with his father driving him to and from all his appointments and having him move in with them during his recovery.

Darth Vader himself, David Prowse, has sent David a personal message of support. But as Darth Vader is the ultimate anti-hero his sister, Karen Chappell, has described David as a superhero.

David and his family faced a long and heroic battle filled with the love and support of his many friends and family.

With mouth cancer survival relying so heavily on early diagnosis, Karen is fighting on to generate awareness of mouth cancer by encouraging early detection and diagnosis though charity work. She said, you don’t think it could ever happen to you but everyone is pulling together.

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to spot the disease early, how to reduce your risk and what to do if you notice any of the early warning signs, visit

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