Woman Discovers Toothache Is Mouth Tumour, After Doctors Misdiagnose With Wrong Cancer

'This has destroyed all my faith in doctors.'

A mother who was diagnosed with cancer just a month after getting married is facing an uncertain future – as doctors treated her for the wrong type.

Gemma Wood, 27, had barely had time to settle into married life when doctors told her the toothache she had been experiencing for the past six months was actually a rare type of cancer.

She threw herself into gruelling treatment, even losing her hair to chemotherapy.

After four months, she was told the cancer cells appeared to be dying, and was looking forward to life getting back to normal.

But then, she was dealt a devastating blow – she learnt she had been diagnosed with the wrong type of cancer, and would require a completely different form of chemotherapy.

Gemma Wood with her son, Mason-Lee
PA Real Life
Gemma Wood with her son, Mason-Lee

"I'd just started to get my hair back, and with it my confidence," said Mrs Wood, mum to seven-year-old Mason-Lee and two-year-old Sophia-Louise.

"I'd just gotten a job and felt content with life, then I was told I had been diagnosed with the wrong type of cancer and would need a different form of chemo.

"It was absolutely heartbreaking. I was back at square one, it was like I was fighting twice."

Wood, of Warminster in Wiltshire, first started experiencing toothache in March of 2014.

She visited her dentist, who told her it could be due to her biting down on her cheek, or a possible infection.

Over the coming months, she underwent a string of treatment including taking courses of antibiotics and even having procedures to file down her teeth and remove a wisdom tooth – but nothing helped.

Eventually, a worrying lump formed in her cheek, protruding past her teeth.

Wood and her husband Karl tied the knot in August 2014 – but even their special day was plagued by her toothache.

Gemma Wood and her husband Karl on their wedding day, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer
PA Real Life
Gemma Wood and her husband Karl on their wedding day, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer

The new bride was in so much pain that she had to leave her own wedding at 11pm.

The next month, the pain came too much to bear and she was taken to Salisbury District Hospital in Wiltshire, where medics performed a biopsy.

At this point, she began to suspect she was dealing with something serious.

"It was just a gut instinct that something was wrong," she said.

Then, just a month on in October 2014, she received the results – and with them, the news nobody ever wants to hear.

At just 26, she was told she had a neuroendocrine tumour (NET) lodged in her mouth behind her cheekbone.

The rare form of cancer affects the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of nerve and gland cells and responsible for producing hormones then releasing them into the blood stream.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, NETs often grow slowly and it may be several years before symptoms begin to present themselves.

Speaking of the moment she was diagnosed, Wood said: "My world fell apart. My head was full of questions I couldn't answer.

"I couldn't look at my babies or husband without thinking about dying and leaving them."

Brave Wood soon began treatment, which included chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

After four months in January 2015 she finished chemotherapy and her hair started growing back.

She was given a shred of hope when it appeared the cancer cells were shrinking.

But then she was told that she had been diagnosed with the wrong type of cancer.

In July 2015 she was told she was told she did not have an NET, but rather a rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of soft tissue cancer which required a different type of chemotherapy.

Tragically, whilst she had been receiving the first type of chemotherapy, the rhabdomyosarcoma had spread to her lungs.

"This has destroyed all my faith in doctors," said Wood. "Whenever we're in the car on the way to hospital, I'll feel really anxious.

"I've even had to have counselling just to help me continue with chemotherapy because I get so scared about going back to hospital now.

"My son has had to have counselling too to help him cope. My daughter is so young that me being bald and poorly is all she's ever known, so we haven't had to explain things to her as much."

Now, facing an uncertain future, Wood is fundraising to create as many special memories as she can.

She has set up a fundraising page called 'Sod you cancer' aimed at gathering £500 for a special party.

Due to take place in May this year, Wood wants the party to be a way for 150 of her loved ones to "forget cancer for a night."

"There's a chance I won't have a very long life. I don't know how long I'll be here for, so I want to make memories with my family while I can," she said.

"My friends and family have been so supportive, but this is really hard on them.

"It's affected my husband as he's had to care for me, and our children as they're watching me change, seeing me sad and hearing me cry.

"I want to throw a massive party so we can all just forget cancer for a night, and celebrate life, whatever my outcome."

A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: "Gemma's medical history is complicated and testing of her initial biopsy did not indicate rhabdomyosarcoma.

"Her treatment is ongoing and we would urge her to raise any questions or concerns she has with us so we can address them with her directly."

To help Mrs Wood, visit www.gofundme.com/t26psza4

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