Rachel Parsons Portrait

Rachel Parsons

Patient Ambassador for The Mouth Cancer Foundation

On Boxing Day 2007 Rachel found a lump on the inside of her right cheek, but it was Christmas, so didn’t have much time to think about it. Rachel is married to Firefighter Tim and they have 5 beautiful children.

Rachel was advised by her GP to see a Dentist, who told her it was lichen planus, a common mouth infection and not to worry…Six months later the lump still hadn’t gone away. Instead it had become enlarged, ulcerated and painful. Rachel visited the doctor again and was referred to Coventry University Hospital for a biopsy before receiving the devastating news that she had buccal mucosa, a cancer of the lining of the cheeks.

On 6th September 2008 Rachel underwent a nine-and-a-half-hour operation to remove the cancer from her right cheek, which was replaced with muscle and a vein taken from Rachel’s left wrist and forearm. Skin was then taken from her tummy to replace the skin on her arm.

Rachel was allowed to leave the hospital six days later, but her battle was far from over. She was unable to open her mouth more than an inch and had to be fed intravenously. She had to exercise her mouth and could eventually eat baby food. Even now Rachel can’t open her mouth wide enough to eat a burger, and part of my face is still numb. As well as suffering infections, Rachel underwent follow up work at Birmingham Dental Hospital. The first year was incredibly tough.

Rachel started to raise awareness of mouth cancer 10 weeks after surgery and was invited to launch Mouth Cancer Action Month at the House of Commons in 2013. Rachel volunteers to man the Mouth Cancer Foundation Patient and Carers Helpline.

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