"Head and Neck Cancer Australia was a lifeline for me and
helped me feel that I wasn’t alone," Mandy Keleher, Brisbane
For many people, like Mandy, a late diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer can result in invasive surgery, lifelong side effects that impact speech, eating, physical appearance and mental health, and expensive medical and dental treatments.
Sadly, over 1,200 people each year do not survive to tell their story.
Head and Neck Cancer Australia exists to raise awareness about Head and Neck Cancer nationally and to provide vital support to patients and carers to help them better navigate their Head and Neck Cancer journey.
We do this by providing a central source of information and support.
Over 5,100 people are newly diagnosed with Head and Neck Cancer each year, that’s 13 people every day. At a cost of $25 per person, we need to raise $127,500 each year to continue to provide our free resources across Australia to support people who are newly diagnosed.
We need your help to ensure Head and Neck Cancer Australia’s free resources reach newly diagnosed patients like Mandy when they need it most. Please donate generously today and help us grow a community of support.
In 2016, Mandy Keleher from Brisbane went to her dentist as her gums had been bleeding. With an initial diagnosis of periodontitis, she was sent to a specialist for treatment and cleaning and was hoping that was it. But the symptoms persisted. She became concerned about a growing gap in her front teeth. It was not until she received treatment before her wedding in 2019 that the specialist agreed that something was not right.
After her honeymoon in November 2019, then the children's birthdays, Christmas, and the start of the new school year, Mandy went to a new dental specialist in February 2020.
By March she was booked in for surgery.
“I was diagnosed with a squamous cell carcinoma in my upper jaw, a type of Oral Cancer. I had never heard of it before and never heard about Head and Neck Cancer.
“My pragmatic approach to finding out about my cancer was taking control of something that I couldn’t control. I gathered together as much information that I could, so that I could help my family understand what the process was going to be, what I needed, was going to need, and still need now.
“I found out about Head and Neck Cancer Australia after my surgery when I googled support groups for Head and Neck Cancer.
“It was a lifeline for me and helped me feel that I wasn’t alone. I could find more information about my treatment and I could see other people like me who have beaten Head and Neck Cancer.
I also found a support group that I could join in person and via zoom. They were people just like me. They didn’t look at me funny because of my speech or how swollen I was. I connected with people I could relax and relate to.”
Your donation today will help ensure that resources are freely available across Australia to support people who are newly diagnosed with Head and Neck Cancer, their family and the health professionals who care for them.
Two years post-treatment, Mandy is still paying for the cost of drainage massages for her lymphoedema and needs to see a specialist dentist due to the radiation treatment, which is expensive and hard, especially when you have a young family and bills to pay.
“I wish that more dentists knew about Head and Neck Cancer. Had they said something different to me earlier on in the piece, then my tumour would not have been as big and my treatment would not have been as invasive.
“I’m angry about the cost of my teeth and that the government doesn’t class the replacement of teeth as medical even though the only reason I had them removed is because of cancer. They class the surgery for dental implants as elective. It is crazy.”
“I hated the way I looked in the first year after surgery, I looked like I had a stroke. My smile is not the same. Having nine teeth removed and tissue inserted into my upper jaw has changed my smile.
“The experience has meant I don’t sweat the small stuff though. It is what it is, I cannot change it, I cannot wish it away.
Do I wish I didn’t have cancer, of course, but I don’t let it define me.
I am who I am. I still dress up, put red lipstick and make-up on when I go out. I am not going to let it stop me living life to the fullest.”
Head and Neck Cancer is one of the LEAST supported cancers in Australia and we need your support. We are the only national charity dedicated to providing information and support for people living with Head and Neck Cancer.
Mandy’s story highlights the importance of being supported with the right information at the right time. Information can help to reduce some of the worries people experience and give them hope.
Your donation will go directly towards engaging, educating and empowering people living with Head and Neck Cancer.
Thank you for your valuable support and for any contribution you can make today to help us reach our fundraising goal.
And thank you Mandy for sharing your story, you are not alone. To read more about Mandy's story click here.