To be honest, we have never felt comfortable asking for help as, throughout our lives, we have always strived to be the ones helping others, with my eldest daughter jumping from a plane in aid of Macmillan and my youngest participating in the Santa’s on the Run and all of us completing the Bubble Run in aid of Farleigh Hospice. However, as time is not on our side, we desperately need some help in fulfilling my husband’s modest bucket list wish and I would please ask you to read our story below.
So firstly, meet my wonderful, brave, kind hearted husband Mick with our youngest, beautiful daughter at a Head and Neck Charity Fundraising event a while back.....
My husband of 30 years, Mick Stockwell (51) was diagnosed with the most aggressive, rare type of cancer imaginable – adeno cystic carcinoma (ACC) of the floor the mouth 7 years ago, after finding a very small lump out of the blue. After multiple life-changing operations and intensive radiotherapy, eventually the Surgeons had no choice but to remove his tongue and insert a PEG feeding tube into his stomach, telling him he would struggle to speak again and would never eat food through his mouth. Mick had to give up his beloved job in London and reluctantly retire at the age of just 47 and was registered as disabled after previously being so fit, healthy and active. However, with sheer perseverance, bravery and determination, Mick beat the odds and started formulating words again and has just started to eat soft foods, with a little difficulty. Sadly, the cancer has come back twice and has now spread to his lungs. It is relentless and there is no cure or treatment. The latest scan, two weeks ago, revealed fluid collecting on his left lung and multiple tumours on both lungs growing steadily, with two larger ones being cited in crucial areas near his heart and surrounding his bronchial tube. The Consultant has said it is only a matter of time before Mick becomes breathless and needing oxygen. We were starkly told to enjoy this summer together.
So, as a family, with his two daughters behind us, we wish to help our wonderful husband and dad, to fulfil his bucket list dream of travelling to Scotland to fish in one of the Lochs. Mick has been an avid course, carp and sea fisherman all his life, and, aside from his family, his two passions are fishing and beer and you would rarely catch him without a rod or a pint glass in his hand!!
Poor Mick has spent so much time in hospital and attending MDT meetings to review scans, always coming away with bad news and feeling so down and helpless. He has even spent many birthdays being operated on, or having radiotherapy and has had little to look forward to, despite being told on numerous occasions by our team of Consultants to go away and enjoy ourselves while we still can.
This is Mick just after his extensive life-changing surgery.....
Our goal is to raise enough funds to just meet the costs of travelling to Scotland and back and staying in modest accommodation for a week. This would really give Mick something to focus on and look forward to, rather than just watching a ticking time clock, in between scans!
This is Mick catching one of many carp over the years......
7 years ago, we were just a normal family, with two daughters and a dog. My husband worked tirelessly as a Site Manager across the whole of London, working 6-7 days a week to provide for us and I was working full time as a Consultant Surgeon’s PA.
This is us before Mick's cancer had spread......
Mick never had cause to visit our Doctors until one day, he noticed a lump in his mouth. We never dreamed that the small lump would end up changing our lives forever.
After undergoing a biopsy, the diagnosis was shocking, as it was adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) of the floor the mouth, and, having never heard of it, we soon learned that it was a rare, aggressive type of cancer with a life expectancy of 5 years. To say we were all in shock was an understatement and Mick underwent many hours of major life-changing surgery and spent weeks in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit.
Sadly, the cancer did not stop its relentless spread, and returned a year later, even bigger and more aggressive, resulting in much more radical surgery and shockingly, the Surgeons had no choice but to remove his tongue, replacing it with tissue from his leg and fitted him with a PEG stomach feeding tube. He was told he would possibly never speak again and would always feed through this stomach tube. He now has to take a multitude of painkillers, including morphine, after once upon a time, never even needing to take a paracetamol.
Mick during intensive radiotherapy treatment and sadly this session was on his birthday......
Mick was so strong and determined, he beat all the odds and unbelievably started to formulate words again, refusing to wear the artificial voice box as he sounded like a robot (!) and was up on his feet, determined not to be beaten! After six weeks of gruelling intensive radiotherapy, sadly he lost most of his teeth and his ability to taste. The side of his face which was irradiated became completely numb, making eating an almost impossible task and the constant drooling was to become a firm feature of his daily life.
Can you imagine never being able to eat normal foods and never being able to have a roast dinner or participate in Christmas dinner or any other celebrations, which are almost always food orientated? Mick would be stuck in the corner putting Fresubin (liquid prescription milkshake) through his feeding tube, listening to others commenting on how delicious the food was! It was pure torture for him and eventually, even before the lockdown, we gave up visiting friends and family, because we did not want them to feel bad and did not want to keep putting Mick through the torture as well.
For the next couple of years, Mick had to sit alone at dinner times, because the sight and smell or conventional food which he could not eat, was such a torment. My daughters and I had to quickly eat our food away from Mick for fear of ‘teasing’ him with it and we never ever ventured out to restaurants again. We even had to turn the TV channels over, particularly at Christmas with the relentless food adverts and cookery shows! He was stuck putting Fresubin (a prescription liquid drink) through his stomach and eventually, after endurance and perseverance, he began eating liquidised food through his mouth. He then progressed to finally managing to somehow chew soft foods, after the Dentist amazingly rebuilt two teeth and he learned to swallow like a baby bird, by angling his neck as he has limited swallow ability! To eat a small dinner now, like a baby’s portion, takes Mick up to one hour with a long handled teaspoon to push the food to the back of his mouth and very tiny mouthfuls. By the time he reaches the end of his ‘meal’, it is always stone cold but it is an amazing achievement that he can manage to eat anything at all, against all the odds.
The story sadly does not end there – over the years, Mick has had many procedures to his head and neck and subsequently had to retire from his beloved job at the age of just 47, and he became registered as disabled.
Then the cancer decided to show up again, this time in his lungs. He now has multiple tumours in both lungs and a recent scan two weeks ago, has also now revealed fluid collection on one lung, which is causing him to have coughing fits and causes pain in his chest. There is no treatment available and we have visited many hospitals, including Royal Marsden in London and The Christie in Manchester and have had the privilege of being reviewed by some of the top Professors and Leading Oncology Consultants in the country. The tumours continue to grow and there is nothing, short of a miracle, that will stop them. We just have to persevere with three monthly scans and then the inevitable MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) meeting which tells us the same thing each time, that the cancer is growing relentlessly and the sobering reality is that Mick will grow more breathless over time and will eventually need oxygen aid.
Mick has been so determined not to be beaten down and never ever complains about his situation and continues to walk every day through our lovely scenic village with our two dogs, which has amazed the Consultants. When we met one of the Consultants for the first time last year, he said on reviewing the scan before we arrived, he was expecting the patient to be in a wheelchair, struggling for breath and in walks Mick, in his smart jacket, always smiling and upbeat, very polite and always grateful.
Mick and our two doggies who are helping to keep him fit with walking each day.....
Our team of Consultants and Cancer Nurses have been amazing and we have been told to go away and enjoy our time together, which has been limited, due to the pandemic as we have had to shield indoors, because it would have been ‘game over’ if Mick caught COVID on top of everything else.
The reason for this plea, is that Mick’s one passion in life, apart from his family and our two lovely dogs, has been his passion for angling. He always wanted to travel the world and catch monster carp or tuna and it is so sad that we will be unable to fulfil this dream due to his inability to travel abroad. Mick has also always wanted to fish in Scotland and this is something that we could possibly achieve with a little help.
If we could possibly raise a modest amount of money just to get us there and back and to stay in a modest self-catering accommodation, then when the lockdown is finally lifted, we may be able to take Mick to Scotland to carry out one of his biggest wishes from his bucket list to catch a Scottish salmon or trout. If we wait until next year, this may not be possible as his ability to travel will be more difficult with the progression of this vile disease, so it is vital that we sort this out for him this year and give him a happy memory, rather than constantly thinking about hospital, scans and Consultant meetings.
It just leaves me to say a huge thank you for even just taking the time to read our story. I am sorry it is so lengthy, but I have tried to fit in as much of our journey as I can to give you an idea of what Mick has gone through. He is such a lovely, kind person and I am so privileged to have been married to him for over 30 years and having two wonderful daughters. He is always the person who does anything and everything for other people, always putting himself last, so please help us to fulfil this dream for Mick, as, if anyone deserves it, he really does.
Thank you for listening to our story.