A Bromley mum made a full recovery from a rare cancer diagnosis which required her tongue to be reconstructed.

Life-coach Annabel Lovick, 48, learnt she had tongue cancer earlier this year, a disease which usually affects older long-term smokers and drinkers, after she first discovered a lesion about 12 months ago.

Teetotal, non-smoker Annabel had a large part of her tongue reconstructed from part of her leg in February, after the cancerous region was removed at Guy’s Hospital, and has since made a good recovery.

She said: “I didn’t think much of it at first and tongue cancer never crossed my mind.

“I heard that it was Mouth Cancer Action Month in November and even though it hadn’t changed, it prompted me to see my GP.

“Because I was fairly young, female, a non-smoker and I don’t drink, she said not to worry about it.”

But by the New Year the lesion had worsened, so she sought advice from her dentist, who recommended for her to have it checked at Guy’s Hospital.

At her appointment in February, Annabel was given an MRI scan and had a biopsy a few days later. She was stunned to be told she had tongue cancer.

Mouth cancer affects around 8,300 people every year in the UK.

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Annabel, who has two teenage sons, added: “I was told that I needed to have a big operation because the lesion was changing quickly and was the size of a small grape.

“I would need around a third of my tongue removed through an incision in the neck, lymph nodes in my neck taken away, teeth removed and a tongue reconstruction using tissue from the back of my leg.

“I couldn’t believe I needed so much surgery for something so small. It was a lot to get my head around but I focused on staying positive and had to practice what I preached as a life coach.

“I had the operation less than three weeks after being diagnosed.”

The 10-hour surgery was led by Mr Georgios Orfaniotis, a plastic surgeon, and Mr Richard Oakley, a head and neck cancer surgeon and clinical lead for head and neck surgical oncology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Annabel stayed in hospital for two weeks and needed a tracheostomy (a small plastic tube in the windpipe that forms an artificial airway) for eight days.

She said: “The tracheostomy was very unpleasant because I had no swallow mechanism and couldn’t feel my tongue. It was removed once I could breathe through my mouth and it was like I had to learn to breathe again.

“At that point I could eat and drink, starting with yoghurt and mushed up food. I needed a mirror as I couldn’t feel my mouth or tongue, so I had no concept of how close to my mouth the spoon was. It felt like a foreign object in my mouth.

“People were surprised my voice still sounded the same, it was a bit like speaking with a big sweet in my mouth. Eventually as time went on it felt as though it got smaller and smaller.

“Overall the recovery was better than I thought it would be. I remember feeling fine around three or four months afterwards as I wasn’t tired and could eat anything.”

Annabel says having cancer has helped to reinforce her positive outlook. She adds: “My message to others is don’t try to change the things you have no control over, focus on the things you can control and react in a positive way. A positive mindset gets you through so much.”