A MOTHER of four who lost half her face to cancer has bravely released pictures of the reconstruction surgery in a bid to raise cash for charity.
Helen Butchart underwent a 22-hour operation on the tumour, which was diagnosed after dental treatment failed to cure a swelling on the right side of her face.
The cancer was so aggressive that surgeons at the Southern General hospital in Glasgow were forced to make Helen a new cheekbone and palate using bone from her shoulder blade, as well as removing her right eye.
Yesterday, the 54-year old, from Lochgelly, Fife, released pictures of her face taken in the days and weeks after the surgery.
She wants to raise money for the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Endowments fund which raises cash to pay for extra equipment, research, training and patient comfort.
She has already raised more than £8,000 for the fund.
Last year Helen, who has run her own flower shop for 17 years, was treated by her dentist after complaining about swelling in her face.
She was treated with antibiotics and the removal of three teeth but that failed to deal with the problem and earlier this year she was diagnosed with maxillary sinus cancer.
She said: “ The tumour had eaten into my right cheekbone, right eye and palate.
“I was in great pain by the beginning of February and was on morphine day and night”.
Helen underwent her life-changing operation on the 17th February.
Surgeons cut out the cancer and reconstructed her face in a complex 22-hour procedure.
Incredibly, she was back home within ten days.
Helen said: “They had to create a new cheekbone and palate – my right scapula (shoulder blade) was used to do this.
“The skin on my face had stretched too much and was so thin they had to give me a flap. They also removed lymph nodes on the right-hand side.
She added: “This is the second last day of radiotherapy, so I’m relieved about that. It’s difficult to speak at the moment because of ulcers in my throat.”
The pictures were taken at 10 days, three weeks, and five weeks after the operation.
They show the right side of Helen’s face still swollen and covered with a thick skin graft, with a jagged purple scar running across where her right eye used to be.
Helen posted them to her Facebook and Justgiving fundraising page, and pals were quick to praise her.
Gordon Wilson wrote: “Geezus you always had the X factor gal. You have taken things to another level this time and rose to it. Anyone who aint feelin emotion reading the above posts just aint human.X is for Kisses a plenty but in your case its sheer guts.”
Helen’s sister Janice Macrimmon wrote: “ From the day you were told about the tumour you have demonstrated strength like no other.
“You have faced every step with courage and also humour- it wouldn’t be you if there wasn’t a smile and a joke involved!! I as your big sister feel immensely proud to call you my wee sister, keep up the good work pal.”
She also praised Helen’s husband, John, saying: “John Butchart needs a special mention here as I am so proud of you John, you are a rock!! Love you both “
Whilst Helen’s neice wrote: “Aunty Helen you are the bravest woman I know and a true inspiration to everyone”
Helen said: “I have nothing but praise and respect for the surgeons who helped me through that difficult time. “
Referring to the fundraising, she said: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and support given by local communities. It’s great how everyone pulls together.”
To donate go to https://www.justgiving.com/Helen-Wilson2809/
Last night, the chief executive of Cancer Support Scotland praised Helen’s effort to raise awareness.
He said: “We call head and neck cancers the “Cinderella” cancers because they tend to be the ones that are less prominent in the media. Not much is known about this kind of cancer.
“If this makes even one person go to the doctor and get checked out, Helen’s doing a grand job.
“If you’ve got any change to your throat, your nose, your ears, please go to get it checked out. The earlier it is detected, the better.”