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Head and neck cancer fundraising event
From left to right, Sarah Smailes, Dwayne Watkin, his son Jacob, nurse Leah Maskell, Dwayne's wife Jennet and nurse Barbara Pires.

October 17

Head and neck cancer team “overwhelmed by the generosity” of the patients, family members and friends who supported them to raise more than £7,500 through charity evening

The head and neck cancer team are “overwhelmed by the generosity” of the patients, family members and friends who supported them to raise more than £7,500 through their charity evening.

Held at the Danbury Sports and Social Centre on Saturday, September 23, the fundraising event was an opportunity to help bring patients together who have undergone operations for mouth cancer while enjoying music, food, a raffle and an auction.

The project was organised by members of the head and neck cancer team alongside patient Dwayne Watkin, who had a procedure to remove and reconstruct a large part of his tongue in March this year.

Dr Sarah Smailes, a physiotherapy consultant who helps patients to rehabilitate following operations for mouth cancer, said: “As you can imagine, a person’s ability to speak and swallow is affected by such an operation. After weeks in hospital Dwayne said that he would like to “do something” to thank all of the staff on Stock Ward at Broomfield for getting him through the surgery and making him better.

“Dwayne, Stock Ward nurse Leah Maskell and I talked about this and decided that we would hold a charity evening to help bring patients together who have had these huge disfiguring operations, raise much needed money to help future patients with mouth cancer and raise awareness of the disease.

“After months of planning, we held the first ever (in Essex) head and neck cancer charity evening, which was attended by more than 200 people. So many patients who have suffered with mouth cancer came to support each other and the cause. It was a humbling experience for all of us who work at the Broomfield head and neck cancer unit. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of so many patients, family members and friends to raise more than £7,500 in one evening – it was amazing.

“We plan to use the money to buy tablets so that people who cannot speak after their surgery will be able to communicate more easily and for equipment to make breathing more comfortable for patients with tracheostomies. We would also like to hold education evenings where patients can drop in for support and information about their operation and cancer, which will need money for refreshments.

“Thank you to all who supported the evening, especially Leah Maskell and Barbara Pires (Dwayne's nurses), Mr Fateh Ahmad and Miss Kallroi Tzafetta (Dwayne's plastic surgeons) who helped Dwayne and I so much in preparation and on the night.”

INFORMATION: To donate, please go to www.justgiving.com/headandneck1

Dwayne's Story

When I found out that I had cancer in my mouth I was terrified. The thought of not knowing what I would be waking up to after the operation was overwhelming as I also have a phobia of needles…which made it worse.  On the day of the operation the whole head and neck cancer team were so reassuring that it did ease the apprehension considerably. The level of care and attention I received during my time in intensive care and on the ward was outstanding. I can’t thank everyone enough for their diligence, professionalism and compassion,  so much so that I wanted to give something back and I suggested that I would do a BBQ for the staff. The idea grew from there, Sarah and Leah took the idea and turned it into a fundraiser. We recommended a venue and band who were more than happy to help. Using the longstanding contacts we have from the Aussie BBQ Co we soon had a wealth of auction and raffle prizes to add to the pot. The whole event was an overwhelming success and I am so very humbled to have been a part of it. Knowing that the money raised will go to help others who find themselves in the same situation with head and neck cancer makes me very happy and I hope to be able to do the same again next year.

Finally, huge thanks to the Aussie BBQ team who gave their time on the night to cook and serve over 200 hungry guests, along with Adrian at Danbury Sports and Social Centre for the kind donation of the venue and last but not least Ian and his band Eclipse Live Music for a night of great music, compering and most of all fun!