Cancer patient, Rebecca Patterson has tongue replaced with arm skin after she was diagnosed with cancer

Rebecca Patterson, a British woman from Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire who was diagnosed with cancer has had her tongue removed and replaced with skin from her arm tissue after battling cancer.

Mrs Patterson, was 38 when she was diagnosed with tongue cancer in April 2018 – shortly after getting engaged. She had a sore spot on her tongue and a white patch in her mouth for about eight years which never went away.

Rebecca Patterson, 39, first noticed a sore spot on her tongue and a white patch in her mouth some nine years. Though she didn’t think anything of them, and was initially diagnosed with oral thrush by doctors.

But when the pain got so bad she could barely speak or eat, Rebecca went back to doctors for a biopsy.

She then had a biopsy and received the devastating call from a nurse.

Mrs Patterson said: ‘You can never prepare yourself for hearing the words ”it’s cancer”.

‘I sat in the consultant’s room trying to process what was happening thinking am I going to die? Will I lose my tongue? How will life ever be normal again?

‘My world had shattered into a million pieces. I remember saying to the consultant: ‘I can’t have cancer, my life with my fiancé is just beginning.’

Mrs Patterson added: ‘I woke to find my arm bandaged, two drains coming out of my neck, a tracheostomy and a feeding tube.

‘Whilst recovering in hospital, I went through a lot of ups and downs. I couldn’t speak for a week and could only communicate through writing everything down.

Cancer patient, Rebecca Patterson has tongue replaced with arm skin  after she was diagnosed with cancer

‘My trachea would leak, and I would end up with crusty secretions around my neck, my arm was like a dead weight and I had very restricted movement in my neck.

‘I couldn’t do anything independently and relied on the nurses to wash, dress and move me. I felt trapped inside my own body. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.

“Mealtimes were hard because I had to eat pureed food, I was breathless, I couldn’t shower easily because of my scars and I needed help to go to the toilet,” she said.

She underwent 11 and a half hours of surgery at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, where surgeons removed the right side of her tongue, before removing the skin and an artery from her left arm to build a new tongue.

Doctors also removed the right lymph nodes in her neck and two back teeth so the tongue would fit.

After being discharged from hospital, Mrs Patterson struggled to get her life back to normal.

She and her husband Craig have now raised almost £2,400 to give to King’s Mill Hospital’s Clinical Psychology Cancer Service which supported her throughout her recovery.

Mrs Patterson said: ‘The cancer returning was always at the forefront of my mind – it was my biggest fear.

Mrs Patterson’s Macmillan nurse referred her to the Clinical Psychology Cancer Service based at King’s Mill Hospital to help with emotional support, where she met Macmillan Clinical Psychologist, Dr Sanchia Biswas.

Dr Biswas, Macmillan Clinical Psychologist, said: ‘It is not unusual to find it difficult to cope with a diagnosis of cancer, the treatment or life afterwards.

‘However, it is important to recognise unhelpful thoughts and emotions that may be keeping you trapped in ‘vicious cycles’.

‘Rebecca utilised therapy to help break these cycles and re-connect her with life-fulfilling values. We have a fantastic self-help website with a range of information and tools to help people with the emotional impact of living with cancer

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