3rd February 2022 Eddie from Cork enjoying life after recovering from cancer
In November 2013, Cork native Eddie, a lifelong smoker of 40 cigarettes a day, noticed some changes in his overall health. By then he had retired from the army after twenty years and taken on a full time job working as a delivery driver.
“I realised I was getting very tired around 1pm in my lunch break, and that’s not like me. I started falling asleep in the truck for half an hour, maybe three quarters of an hour and this was occurring every second day. And then I started was getting pains on the left hand side of my tongue - anything hot hurt, drinking or eating and of course I was smoking so I had to smoke on the right instead of the left, because smoking was hurting me.”
Naturally anxious, Eddie booked an appointment to see his dentist. The dentist found an inflamed, ulcerated area under Eddie’s left tongue and prescribed an antibiotic and a mouthwash. He advised Eddie to come back in a few days if there was no improvement and also advised him to reduce his smoking. Returning the next day, Eddie knew something was wrong. After carrying out a review, the dentist felt that the lesion required further investigations which led to an urgent referral to the Cork Dental Hospital.
Seen within two days of his referral, Eddie underwent x-ray and biopsy under local anaesthetic. It was clear this was serious and Eddie was urged to quit smoking immediately: “I knew in my own mind that there was something wrong. They told me that it was not looking good. So I knew straight away then 100% what I had, long before I was told”.
The biopsy results were fast-tracked and confirmed that the lesion was cancerous. Referred the same day to the Head and Neck team at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork, Eddie explained that “they sat down with all three of us – my wife, my son and me went through everything that needed to be done. And then they asked to make sure I was happy with the plan. And in reply I said ‘what’s to be, is to be.”
After that, Eddie says he “fell into a kind of black hole, this dark hole, with no light. That was before my operation. I was really depressed. Like everyone says, I asked why me. My surgery was fixed for the 26th February, so I said to myself, I have to overcome this. The medical social worker came to visit me twice and we had a good chat. Then before the operation, something clicked and I said – ‘well why not, why not me? And that kind of helped. My whole lifestyle changed completely, everything.”
Diagnosed with Stage 3 tongue cancer with lymph node involvement, Eddie’s surgery took place on February 26th. It included the removal of all lower teeth on left side, radical resection of left side of his tongue and floor of mouth and also involved reconstruction. Post surgery, Eddie was in hospital for 18 days. His rehabilitation was supported by a team of physiotherapists, dieticians, specialist cancer nurses and speech and language therapists.
After this was completed, Eddie explained how the surgeon “came in and said do you want to go home? And I said can I? And he said ‘can you walk up and down the stairs?” With 60 steps in total, Eddie managed them three times a day and was then discharged. He was subsequently referred back to the Cork Dental Hospital for review, and pre radiotherapy by the dental oncologist to help him cope with short and long term effects of treatment. At that stage he was eating a normal diet, speaking clearly and he had successfully quit smoking.
Six weeks of radical radiation treatment followed which Eddie acknowledges he found very tough: “All my friends were very good to me, up in the rugby club, it used to take me half an hour to walk up there as I had no energy after the radiotherapy, and they used to bring me home by taxi. They’d just say sure we’ll drop you home, we’re going that way anyway and they were excellent. It took me a year and a half come to back from it, but I stayed positive.”
Since his recovery, Eddie has visited his son in Australia, did a sky dive and a bungee jump and clearly is being literal when he says that he is “game for anything.”
“Every day I get up, I look out the window and I say Jaysus! It’s a great day - hail, rain or snow. Money means nothing – your time and who you spend it with becomes the most important thing. It’s great to be alive. Every day is a bonus, there’s good things all around me because I make it happen.”
Almost 10 years later, Eddie remains well, is a confirmed non-smoker and is living life to the full.
Everyone can take steps to reduce their risk of cancer and act early if they are worried about a sign or symptom. For more information about head and neck cancer visit the
National Cancer Control Programme early detection of cancer webpage. World Cancer Day webinar
For World Cancer Day 2022 the Irish Cancer Prevention Network is hosting a free public webinar on Friday 4th February at 1pm covering practical steps to reduce our cancer risk, including the importance of acting on early signs or symptoms.