My journey with Ethmoid Cancer – the back ground story.

Me with Boys

The Ethmoid Sinus is a small sinus located between the eye and the nose. Cancer of the Ethmoid Sinus is very rare, and with a wide variety of triggers it is hard to pin point the cause. The problem with nasal cancers is that by the time they are detected they are already quite advanced, and drastic measures need to be taken to effectively treat it.

It has been over a year now since my operation, and many people say I have a good story to tell. I hope it brings hope to you if you are dealing with cancer of any kind, but especially if it is facial.

My name is Daniel Jackson. I go back to November 2011, I was 33.

It started with a watery eye, a mild irritant. I was working at a local gym part time, after working in sales for many years it was a welcome break to not work towards unrealistic targets. Life was good, I had a great girlfriend and 2 handsome boys.

“You want to get that checked out,” said one of the girls I worked with. I just smiled. What’s the bother, it’s just a watery eye? Time went on and the irritation became an inconvenience as the flow of tears became stronger. I went to the doctor and was prescribed eye drops, and was sent on my way. Two weeks later and no change, apart from tissue paper was almost glued to my hand. Next visit to the doctor I was sent off with different eye drops.

I had some good news just before Christmas, the New year would start with a new job. It sounded very exciting and just the challenge and future prospects I had looked for. In the new year I visited the doctor again, antibiotics this time, but also a referral to the hospital so that the eye specialists could have a look, but I was to cancel if the antibiotics worked. The appointment came through for 2 months later, the eye wasn’t getting better, so I had to wait and put up with it.

The new job was going well I thought, although the company wasn’t doing as well as they had hoped and I was let go in march. I was really disappointed, plus the appointment with the specialist was cancelled at short notice due to sickness. the next date was a month later. The eye was now red and sore, maybe from the rubbing? I finally saw the first specialist who told me it was a blocked tear duct, and sent me off with more antibiotic. This made perfect sense. A follow up appointment was made for 2 weeks. In that time I was busy applying for work. Times were tough and good jobs hard to come by, but there were a couple I pinned my hopes on. The 2 weeks passed and I went back and saw a different specialist. His approach was much different. He looked with curiosity and was thorough.. “I’m sending you for a scan, there’s something going on which I’m not sure about. stop taking the antibiotics, they’re useless for you” About 10 days or so later I went for a scan, I was actually quite excited, and wondered what was going on. Also in the same week my mum was marrying and I was proudly giving her away.

The call

I had an interview! I was very excited and confident, my eye looked like it had been punched, but I knew I would be ok. The same morning I had a call. The consultants secretary “we have a space today at 2?” she said. “Sorry, it’s too short notice, I have an interview at the same time!” I said slightly alarmed. “I advise you to take it!” she replied. Feeling put out, I called my prospective employer and managed to rearrange the interview, only thing was that I had to be there in 20 minutes! Shaved, dressed in 10 minutes, no time to rehearse my preparation, I made the interview. I knew I did well. I then had an hours drive to the hospital.

That’s no polyp!

What a morning! I was still buzzing from the weekend wedding and the interview which I knew against all the odds went really well. Nothing could go wrong now!

I waited patiently in the waiting room to see the consultant. My name was called, I walked into the room, the consultant was sat at his desk with his monitor facing away from me. “There’s something growing inside your head. I’m not saying its anything serious, it’s a tumour, could be benign, it could just be a polyp. We will need a biopsy” He showed me the screen.

That was no polyp I thought, It was huge! This mass was somehow down into my cheek, inside my nose, around my eye and back inside my head. “Did you not notice you couldn’t breathe out of that side of the nose?” he asked. I had broken my nose as a kid and when it healed it blocked that side. I hadn’t been able to breathe out of that side for 30 years!


Call 2

I sat back in the car, contemplated calling sue, but opted to tell her to her face.
“I’ve got some news she said, I’m so excited! We’re going to have a baby!”

“That’s amazing honey! but I have some news too, don’t freak out Sue….. They’ve found a tumour…. but Its probably harmless.”

I don’t know what I expected, but Sue’s reaction was obvious now. I pretty much said I was going to die on what should have been the happiest day of our lives together. I remained positive, and no matter what I was prepared to do what ever it took to get through this.

The next awful thing to do was also bitter sweet. This time telling my mum. She was just back from her amazing honeymoon with Nick and we hadn’t told them so they could enjoy their honeymoon. I don’t suppose there is ever a time that you are either told you may have cancer, or to tell someone that you have. Mum and Nick had barely put down their luggage “I’ve got some good news and some bad news!” The startled and confused expression on mums face is something I will never forget.
“I have a tumour, and sues pregnant!” There was a stunned silence, then many questions, many of which I had no answers.

The biopsy and results

I was booked a week or so later for the biopsy. It was a miserable day, and an early start. They was to drill up my nose, through the cartilage which had formed as a kid and into the tumour and take a sample.

If I am honest, the next day was the worst pain I have ever experienced. Not because of the biopsy, but the nurse pulling out the packing out of my nose which was there to stop the bleeding. I know nurses are thick skinned, but she actually looked scared when she saw how much pain she caused me! If this was the start, I couldn’t wait til the end!

It took about 10 days and the results were in. Sue and I were waiting nervously in the waiting room. Almost an hour after arriving we were called in. We had skirted around what we thought the results might be. I had said that I knew it was probably Cancer, I expected the worst. I had heard that tumours like this could be removed by key-hole surgery. I could manage that! (Even if I would have to go through the packing being pulled out again!)

We walked in to a large room with probably 10 people in there, they were all introduced, but I really didn’t pay much attention. We sat down, the consultants face was emotionless. “It is cancer.” That was it, confirmation. Sue screamed and burst into tears. I held her hand “It’s ok I said”

It was explained that it was quite a large tumour which may have lay dormant for many years. There was no reason for it, no particular cause. It can just happen. It was localised and hadn’t penetrated the skull, however it had grown around the back of the eye and into the Maxillary Sinus. This is why the eye was watering, it had cut off the natural drainage from the eye, causing them to well up.

The eye will have to go

This was not what I was expecting. I had heard that this could happen, but my eye was fine, the eye surgeon told me! OK I thought a glass eye…

“We will take everything, including all the tissue around the eye .” You could hear a pin drop. I looked at sue. “Whatever it takes” I said. The consultant said due to the closeness of the tumour to the eye, and the need to take a margin around the tumour then the healthy eye would have to be forfeit. However, he would make a call to a consultant in London’s Royal Marsden specialist cancer Hospital, who he knew to be the best in this field. He would ask for a second opinion from him. Maybe he could save the eye?

We left having been dealt some heavy blows but a distant hope of saving the eye. On the way home a call came from our consultant. Peter Clarke at The Royal Marsden would see me and treat me if I wanted him to. I didn’t need to think twice! Soon I was London bound with fresh hopes.

In the mean time I started searching the internet for my condition, chances of survival, pictures of glass eyes. “You won’t have a glass eye Dan?” Sue said.” They may have to take everything, eyelids as well!”

“Don’t be stupid, how am I supposed to have a glass eye then?” I protested. “They will make you a whole unit that plugs in!” I searched for that and the pictures weren’t pretty!

This one of the first pictures you find when searching Orbital Prosthesis:

Man with hole in face

Now with a new realization dawned on me. I hope this expert could help more than ever. I met with Peter Clarke and his team. He had considered the best treatment for me, there was nothing he could do, sadly the eye would go.


One comment

  1. Dan, you have shared your journey with cancer brilliantly. I feel privileged to know you and Sue. You are one tough cookie! Join the club! You are a shining example of life after facial cancer; we are richer for the experience. Love Christine – LFI


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