Please note: This article contains an image of a medical nature which some may consider graphic.
A 27-year-old who claims her cancer was misdiagnosed as a common cold has been told she may never speak again.
Heather Longdon says she went to her GP with a runny nose and tickly cough, but was repeatedly told there was nothing to worry about.
She returned five times in six months until a specialist finally discovered she had stage three larynx cancer.
At one point her throat swelled to the size of a water melon.
Heather received treatment for the tumour and was given the all clear in February this year, but it returned four months later.
The mum, of Bulwell, Notts., was re-admitted to Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham in August where surgeons performed emergency surgery to remove her voice box.
But she had an incredibly rare reaction which caused her entire throat to puff up to the size of a water melon.
Graphic pictures show her face swelled to almost twice its normal size which has left Heather bed-bound.
Heather, who lives with husband Ben, 28, and their one-year-old son Kian, can only communicate via email from her hospital bed.
She said: “I felt destroyed inside when I was first diagnosed.
“All I could think of was my son, I thought I wouldn’t make it but I had to put my feelings aside and get on with it.
“It was the most awful thing in my life and the treatment was so draining and then going home to my son took its toll on me.
“It’s the scariest thing ever to happen. It makes you see life a lot differently.”
Heather was first diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in April 2015 and underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy every day.
Despite being given the all clear in February this year, Heather never felt better and specialists found the cancer was still there in June.
She was rushed into surgery on August 19 where surgeons removed her voice box, but an infection led to her throat swelling up and she has remained in hospital ever since.
She was told before the operation she may never talk again, and so had recorded special videos for her son in case he doesn’t hear his mum speak again.
She said: “Communication helps day to day and when that’s taken away from you, it makes you appreciate life more than before.
“I had to have a drainer in my neck and then because of the swelling, they compressed my jugular veins in my neck.
“There’s still no sign of me being home for a good two to four weeks.”
Heather’s friend Chanttele White, 27, has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for an operation in California in the hope that it will give Heather her voice back.
Heather said: “If I could get to somewhere that I could get a better voice box that would mean the world to me.
“To be able to tell my son I love him, just little things like that, it means so little to some people as they have a voice.
“But mine’s been taken away and I didn’t realise how much is taken it for granted until it was gone.
“I’m just thankful to still be here to watch my son grow and make plenty of memories.”
Ben, who was a warehouse worker before having to take full care of his wife and son, said: “She’s just been so strong throughout, it’s been really incredible.
“There were so many times when she could have given up, but she didn’t.
“She could have said she wouldn’t have her voice box removed, she could have said that’s enough, but she battles on.
“It makes me stay strong too. We haven’t been given a time when she might be sent home, as they still need to operate as something went wrong when they removed her voice box.
“Apparently pressure is building up in veins in her neck, but she keeps getting infected again so they can’t operate.”
Ben and Heather lost their first son, Logan, to cot death when he was just 10 days old in 2014.
Ben said: “We could really just do with some luck now. When she gets better I’m taking her straight on holiday.
“It would mean so much if we got the money towards this surgery in California.
“We’ve had two years of terrible news and we just want it to start getting better now.”
Chanttele, a support worker, said: “There is a frustration that Heather’s cancer wasn’t caught earlier.
“She had a cold which just wouldn’t go away. Every time I saw her she had a cold and tickly cough. She went to the GP but he just kept sending her away.
“She never thought for a second it was more serious because she trusted the doctor.
“This went on for about five or six months. Looking back on it now, no cold should last that long and surely the doctor should have realised that.
“We’ll never know what would have happened if the cancer had been discovered earlier. It could have been so different.
“Small things that we do every day and take for granted are the things that Heather is hoping she can one day do herself.
“To you and I, singing in the shower or talking to ourselves would be classed as a bad habit. But to Heather those are luxuries that she would love to experience just one last time.
“A lot of people idolise celebrities or other reputable people but I can honestly say there isn’t anyone I look up to more than Heather herself. Throughout her whole journey she has continued to show endless amounts of courage and determination.
“Heather genuinely does deserve a break from reality and I’d love to show her how much of an inspiration she is to everyone who knows her and her story.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/2t0qbcc