Stan Percival, 58, from Hebburn, could never have predicted how his life would change when he found out he had cancer.
Now some eight years on from his first diagnosis of cancer of the larynx – the area of the throat that is used for breathing, swallowing, and talking – he has endured years of treatment, which finally resulted in him having his voice box removed.
Stan, who was a bingo caller for many years in Tyne Dock, South Shields, alongside his mum Violet, said: “I knew something wasn’t right when I started coughing and my voice was going.
"I was told almost immediately I had throat cancer. It was a huge blow, especially as at the time I was looking after my mam who was battling lung cancer and I was supposed to be the healthy one caring for her.”After his diagnosis Stan underwent laser surgery at the Sunderland Royal Hospital and the treatment was successful.
But in 2015, during routine check-ups, he was told the cancer had returned and he began a course of radiotherapy, undergoing 20 grueling rounds.The treatment was again a success, and Stan went back to having check-ups every three months.
In August 2018 he was dismayed to learn the cancer had come back for a third time, and he would need far more extensive treatment to try and save his life.
A month later, Stan underwent the extensive surgery to have a laryngectomy, the procedure in which the larynx (voice box) is totally removed, meaning he lost the ability to speak.
During his treatment, Stan received the extra double blow of losing both his parents to cancer.
At the same time as removal of his vocal cords, Stan had part of his pharynx removed – the part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity – as well as his thyroid gland and lymph nodes in his neck.
He spent nine weeks in Sunderland Royal and had a further operation to have skin and a vein from his right leg from his knee to groin to put in his neck to fill the hole left when the cancer was removed.
Following this major surgery, which saw Stan have to learn to breathe, swallow and eat again he had further surgery in March 2020 to fit a voice prosthesis to help restore his ability to speak.
Stan now hopes he can inspire others to make a difference.
“Despite losing my voice I want to share my story more than ever,” he said.
"Success stories like mine would not be possible without the generosity of the public helping to fund research. With another Christmas on the horizon, I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life."
In August this year Stan joined a fundraising team as part of Cancer Research UK’s Relay for Life community events to raise money and awareness for the charity.