Dave McKenna, 66, from Middlesbrough and now living in Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Former pipe smoker Dave was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue in early 2008 when his GP found a large lump during a routine check-up. The former teacher underwent 28 gruelling sessions of radiotherapy and five sessions of chemotherapy. He also had a radical neck dissection, a long and complicated procedure which involved cutting from the back of his ear, down his neck and across his chest looking for cancerous cells.

Now Dave is an ambassador for head and neck cancer awareness, sharing his story with others to help raise awareness of the dangers of smoking.

“As I progressed through the 28 radiotherapy sessions, I started to feel more and more pain. My mouth felt like someone had put a blowtorch in there and I couldn’t eat, swallow or drink properly to the point I had to go into hospital. Once while they were dressing my neck, it started to ooze green gunge.

“I remember lying in bed asking myself, ‘how much longer is this going to last?’ After I finished the courses, they then operated on my neck. They cut from the back of my ear, down my neck and across my chest looking for cancerous cells. They took out 43 of my 76 salivary glands.

“It’s a small price to pay for life, but the treatment has changed me. When I talk, I fight against a dry mouth. I wish I could have a piece of bread, but it’s too dry – I dream of having a bacon sandwich. The 28 sessions of radiotherapy down my right hand side has destroyed my hearing and I can’t listen to music anymore. I still suffer from my neck operation – it’s like walking around with a concrete shoulder and neck.

“But I’m one of the lucky ones.”

Listen to Dave's story