Mouth cancer patient runs Marathon with surgeon to say ‘thank you’

Mouth cancer patient runs Marathon with surgeon to say ‘thank you’

A mouth cancer patient ran the Robin Hood half-Marathon with his QMC surgeon to show his appreciation to the teams who saved his life.

Darren Marfleet, from Lincoln, was first diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2012 when he was in his early 40s. He had treatment to remove part of his jaw, teeth and had a neck dissection. He was then cancer-free until 2014, when his second mouth cancer diagnosis came, this time on his tongue. Following a further two operations, Darren was once again given the all clear.

The devastating news of Darren’s third mouth cancer diagnosis came last year, this time on the back of his tongue. It was then he was referred to QMC’s Head and Neck Service, which is a regional center of excellence, and was under the care of specialist consultant surgeon Laith Al-Qamachi. Laith did an operation, called a Partial Glossectomy, to remove the cancer from Darren’s tongue, after which some skin and radial vessels were taken from his forearm to rebuild the tongue. (Very similar to a transplanted organ)

Darren said: “When receiving any cancer diagnosis you do get low and straight away you think you are going to die from it. But the whole team in the Head and Neck cancer service at QMC set me on path so that I could return my life back to normal as quickly as possible.

“The whole team explained every stage of my treatment, not just to me but to my family too.

“I previously enjoyed running an keeping myself fit but after my cancer diagnosis I stopped and it wasn’t until I mentioned this to Laith that he said ‘Why don’t you run now?’ and this sparked the idea for us both to take part in the Robin Hood Half Marathon.”

Darren and Laith ran the half-marathon together, with Darren raising over £3,000 for the Head and Neck Cancer Service at QMC and as a way of saying thank you to those who have looked after him.

Laith said: “Darren is a 47-year-old man who has suffered extensive mouth cancer, and following very complex surgery has been able to return to full-time work, has excellent swallowing and speech and is now able to run a half marathon, which I am doing with him.

“Seeing Darren almost return to his days before any cancer diagnosis is inspiring to me and the whole of our team.

“My job can be very demanding due to the complex surgeries I undertake and the high emotions around cancer, but being able to run the half marathon with Darren and share mutual success with him gives the hope and the motivation to us, Darren and other head and neck cancer patients.

“We really want to stress the importance of the work we do here in Nottingham. Our team are working not to just clear the cancer, but we want to ensure there is a great functional outcome and quality of life to these patients and their families. We believe it’s a team effort between the team, patient and family.

“The passion behind this complex work comes from these great stories and the trust and relationship we build with our patients and their families. Yes, Darren is not only free of the disease nor the good functional outcome with state of art reconstructive work, but it is the legacy that our team have adopted that get our patients back to their original life.”

The Maxillofacial oncology team have adopted this philosophy in managing these complex surgeries to ensure our patients receive the best possible care.

Henry Amor, Community Fundraiser at Nottingham Hospitals Charity, said: “We’re really touched that Darren and Laith are joining forces to take part in the Robin Hood Half Marathon and raise money for the hospital. Darren is a true inspiration, not only battling cancer three times but then wanting to do something to give back to the hospital where he was treated. We wish Darren and Laith the best of luck at the event on Sunday – we will be there to cheer them on!"