James' story

James Roberts:  I knew smoking caused lung cancer but I never thought I would get cancer of the vocal cord at 33 years old.

“Last summer I visited my GP after having a sore throat for about two weeks,” said, 34 year old James Roberts from Cottingham who is married with a two year old daughter.

“I just thought it was laryngitis as there was a lot going around but my voice was quite hoarse.  My GP referred me to an ENT surgeon who performed a biopsy.  Two weeks later I totally lost my voice.  This is when I was diagnosed with cancer of the left vocal cord.”

“My wife was with me when the Consultant told me and she broke down in tears, I think I was in deep shock.  It wasn’t until later that the news hit me when I saw my daughter I was thinking about cancer and whether or not I would be around to see her grow up.”

Luckily for me the consultant told me they had caught it really early and that the treatment pathway would aim to eradicate cancer entirely. 

 “I believe that my cancer is strongly linked to my smoking.  I have been a smoker since being 16 years of age, smoking 20 cigarettes a day.  I tried to quit following my diagnosis but failed on my first attempt.  However I tried again and with the support of my local Smoke Free team I am now a former smoker.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought and I will never smoke again.”

Talking about his treatment James said:  “The treatment was tough, I had to have 20 radiotherapy sessions on my throat.  It was unbearably painful and I couldn’t eat solid food just liquid fortisip solutions, but I am thankfully now in remission.  I have to have six weekly check-ups which involved have a small camera passed through your nose, it is not very pleasant, but a necessity I am happy to live with.”

If the cancer hadn’t been caught in the early stages James risked losing his vocal cords and his voice entirely, as a switchboard operator at a busy hospital this would have had devastating consequences for him and his family if he couldn’t work.

“Seeing my wife so upset when I was diagnosed was heartbreaking and having a cancer diagnosis is life changing.  The thought of my daughter never knowing the sound of my voice really upset me.  Everyone thinks that getting cancer is something which happens in your late fifties/sixties but you can get cancer at any age.  When I was being treated I was the third youngest, with a 24 year old and the youngest at 18 being treated with the same type of cancer.   Don’t gamble with your life by smoking.”

“I wish to thank everyone at the ENT and Oncology Centre at Castle Hill Hospital and the Health trainers at Humber Teaching NHS Trust who have supported me throughout this journey.”