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Whitstable gran's leg bone used to rebuild her jaw after developing mouth cancer

A gran had major surgery to rebuild her jaw - using a bone from her leg.

Trish Hatton, from Tankerton near Whitstable, noticed raised white patches in her mouth which she assumed was related to her wisdom tooth being removed several months earlier.

Trish Hatton noticed raised white patches in her mouth which she assumed was related to her wisdom tooth being removed. Picture: East Kent Hospitals
Trish Hatton noticed raised white patches in her mouth which she assumed was related to her wisdom tooth being removed. Picture: East Kent Hospitals

But it was the first signs of mouth cancer - and the start of a journey which led to 14 hours of major surgery.

Mrs Hatton, 70, said: "I thought I wasn’t going to survive the operation. I re-wrote my will, planned my funeral, and trained someone else to do my job."

When she noticed the problems in her mouth in March 2017, she consulted her local dentist, who was unsure what was wrong.

Two months later, the white patches spread and started bleeding so she contacted a dental nurse she credits with saving her life.

The hospital dentist agreed to take a quick look the following day, but at the appointment he realised the issue was nothing to do with the wisdom tooth operation.

"I re-wrote my will, planned my funeral, and trained someone else to do my job..." - Trish Hatton

Mrs Hatton said: “He took one look in my mouth and asked if anyone had come with me.

"He said it looked very serious, and he did a biopsy immediately then sent me for blood tests and an X-ray.

"I saw the head and neck consultant a week-and-a-half later and he confirmed it was cancer, not only in the flesh in my mouth but also in the bone."

The consultant explained the surgery to Mrs Hatton and her husband Mike - and that the operation was due to take place in two weeks.

"Suddenly we had two weeks to organise our lives to cope with this," she said.

The medical team at the William Harvey Hospital in, Ashford, spent 14 hours creating a new jaw for her. Picture: Paul Amos
The medical team at the William Harvey Hospital in, Ashford, spent 14 hours creating a new jaw for her. Picture: Paul Amos

The medical team at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford spent 14 hours creating a new jaw for her using the fibula bone and flesh from her leg. She also needed a skin graft using skin from her stomach to close the wound on her leg.

But her treatment did not end when she was discharged - Trish needed six weeks of radiotherapy.

She is now cancer-free, but has regular check-ups which she says make her feel less nervous of any recurrence of the mouth cancer going unnoticed.

"I have had the most amazing treatment - from the surgeons, my specialist cancer nurse, and my speech therapist, but also from the whole NHS team," she said.

"I feel so well looked-after; they really are a fantastic team.

"To begin with I had a guilt complex about how much my treatment must have cost, but when I mentioned that to the consultant he said it was actually really important to do big operations like this to keep their skills up, and so that they can train the next generation of surgeons.

"I owe a big debt of gratitude to all the many people who have been involved in my treatment, some of them behind the scenes who I have never even met."

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