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Dad’s heartbreak at ‘losing his smile’ to cancer

A single dad has spoken of his heartbreak after ‘losing his smile’ after his toothache turned out to be a deadly cancerous tumour.

James Parkin, 41, from Bramley, Hampshire, was diagnosed in February 2016 after discovering a painful lump that he mistook for toothache, near the bottom of his jaw.

Doctors discovered he had a rare cancer of the salivary gland – a type that affects just one in 100,000 people in the UK each year – in February 2016.

When surgeons operated, they found that the tumour had wrapped around his facial nerves which subsequently needed to be severed, causing paralysis on one side of James’ face which he has been warned may never return to normal. 

Robbed of his smile: James Parkin, 41, from Bramley, Hampshire, was diagnosed in February 2016 after discovering a painful lump that he mistook for toothache, near the bottom of his jaw

While James waits to see results of his procedure, he's refusing to let cancer take away his passion for music or being a loving dad to his young daughter Mia (pictured)

While James waits to see results of his procedure, he’s refusing to let cancer take away his passion for music or being a loving dad to his young daughter Mia (pictured)

James (pictured before the surgery) underwent weeks of radiotherapy followed by another major procedure which involved taking a nerve from his thigh and placing it in his jaw

James (pictured before the surgery) underwent weeks of radiotherapy followed by another major procedure which involved taking a nerve from his thigh and placing it in his jaw

The tumour was successfully removed, however the impact of the surgery left James, a project manager, no longer able to smile. 

Now, in a poignant video message for Cancer Research, James has spoken movingly about the devastating impact the procedure has had on his confidence.

The father-of-one is determined to prove that although the disease has changed him physically, he is still the same person inside.

Following the surgery in 2016, James underwent weeks of radiotherapy followed by another major procedure which involved taking a nerve from his thigh and placing it in his jaw. 

By doing this, the surgeons attempted to grow the nerves in James’ face again in hope that one day it will bring his smile back.

James after his nerve graft in 2017. The single father had nerve taken from his thigh and placed  in his jaw, leaving him unable to move his face as he used to

James after his nerve graft in 2017. The single father had nerve taken from his thigh and placed  in his jaw, leaving him unable to move his face as he used to

Scar: The tumour was successfully removed, however the impact of the surgery left James, a project manager, no longer able to smile

Scar: The tumour was successfully removed, however the impact of the surgery left James, a project manager, no longer able to smile

Brave: The father-of-one, a keen musician, is determined to prove that although the disease has changed him physically, he is still the same person inside

Brave: The father-of-one, a keen musician, is determined to prove that although the disease has changed him physically, he is still the same person inside

While the procedure has started to restore some movement, James has been warned it could be years before doctors know if their bid to ease the paralysis and help him regain his smile has worked. 

While James waits to see results, he’s refusing to let cancer take away his passion for music or being a loving dad to his young daughter Mia.

In the video, James performs a song he wrote throughout his cancer experience. He has also recorded and released an album which includes a special track called Lullabye dedicated to Mia. 

James before his procedure. While the procedure has started to restore some movement, James has been warned it could be years before doctors know if their bid to ease the paralysis and help him regain his smile has worked

James before his procedure. While the procedure has started to restore some movement, James has been warned it could be years before doctors know if their bid to ease the paralysis and help him regain his smile has worked

James performs a song he wrote throughout his cancer experience. He has also recorded and released an album which includes a special track called Lullabye dedicated to Mia 

James performs a song he wrote throughout his cancer experience. He has also recorded and released an album which includes a special track called Lullabye dedicated to Mia 

James said: ‘I would give anything to be able to smile again but ultimately I am just happy to be alive and was able to have surgery and treatment. 

‘It’s the small things that I am now so appreciative of, like being able to go and watch my daughter play football on a Sunday morning. 

‘You might not be able to see it but I’m smiling on the inside and Mia can do the rest of my smiling for me.’

James is supporting Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign to beat cancer sooner. For more information visit cruk.org



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