Thank you to Dave Withers, our receptionist at Harleigh Road Dental Centre, for sharing this very personal story about his Dad during Mouth Cancer Action Month. In Dave’s words: “I really hope, by sharing our story, others will be encouraged to attend for regular dental care – it gave my Dad extra time that we wouldn’t have otherwise had and for some it may just save their life”.
During a routine dental check-up John Withers’ dentist noticed some white spots on his inner cheek and immediately referred him to the specialist maxillofacial team who confirmed the presence of mouth cancer. John responded well to the initial radiotherapy treatment and continued on with life as normal other than being monitored on a regular basis.
Unfortunately his proved to be an especially aggressive oral cancer which then reappeared, necessitating chemotherapy and a range of other treatments to suppress the pain which he was now experiencing. Once John could no longer eat conventionally he spent the next 18 months being primarily fed via a tube.
Meanwhile Dave’s Mum was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and required a hip replacement whilst Dave had been made redundant from his previous role – a sadness but also a blessing as he was able to move back to the family home to help and care for his parents alongside district nurse visits to change Dad’s dressings twice daily. Dave recalls many happy moments from this time including watching the 2021 Olympics together and opening lottery scratch cards that he had bought his Dad, one per chemo session.
As Mum got better, John’s condition dramatically deteriorated resulting in significant facial bleeds and consequential infections, spells in hospital and blood transfusions – although he remained resolutely strong he became physically very weak. He passed away the night that his hospital bed was delivered to his home.
Dave has always been a passionate fundraiser – aged just 10 he raised £50 for Cancer Research after a close neighbour died of cancer and since then has raised thousands more. He hates heights yet has completed two parachute jumps – first for Meningitis Research and more recently for Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust. He has completed two firewalks and even a naked calendar on Bodmin moor for the MS Society UK for whom he also swam the equivalent of the English Channel (1880 lengths of a 25m pool) accompanied by friend and Paralympian swimmer Stephanie Millward who herself has Multiple Sclerosis. Dave is now actively fundraising alongside awareness-raising for Mouth Cancer Action Month and is a proud ambassador for the Mouth Cancer Foundation which has seen him share his story on BBC Radio Cornwall and through the Mouth Cancer Action Month podcast.
Left: Dave Withers with his dad, John.
Right: John Withers