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Brave man battles cancer four times and loses part of his face

A man who lost an eye and a quarter of his face to a rare cancer says he was told he had just three months to live. He said he believes it is a “miracle” he is still here today, as doctors were left astonished when a tumour on his brain completely disappeared with “no explanation” as to how or why.

Speaking to GrimsbyLive, Dave Green, 60, explained that he has battled cancer four times since first being diagnosed with rare frontal sinus cancer in July 2017, in which he was given a survival rate of just five to ten percent. Shortly after his diagnosis, he underwent a life-changing operation where doctors removed his eye and a large section of his face.

The dad-of-four, who also has six grandchildren, said he was “so positive and determined to live” that he would do whatever it took to beat cancer, and was able to ring the bell after he had completed 36 sessions of radiotherapy in late 2017 – but that was only the beginning of his battle.

The former boxing security guard told Grimsby Live: “When I was first diagnosed, I asked what survival rate I’ve got and whether I’ve got a chance, and they gave me a five to ten percent chance. They said it was very rare and that they hadn’t come across a case like this in this country. I said, ‘Trust me to be rare’. I said I wanted it gone, I wanted it removed. I was so positive and determined that I wanted to live, that whatever happened, I was going to pull through.”

When he woke up from the 13-hour operation, Dave was told by doctors that the cancer was “just milimetres” away from his other eye and brain. To ensure that all the cancer was gone, he underwent the 36 treatments of radiotherapy in the weeks following.

“The more radiotherapy you have done, the worse you feel. After about 11 or 12 the pain started to get worse and I was getting horrendous headaches. I looked like I’d been dipped in boiling hot water, I looked like a lobster, I was just red. At about 30 sessions, I was in horrendous pain. I was trying to be big and strong and brave but it was getting me to where I was scraping myself off the floor, I was in agony.

“At 32 sessions, [doctors] said I’d had enough and that I wasn’t going to have any more, and I said, ‘No. I want the full 36.’ I completed it all and I rang that bell and it was a wonderful feeling. But what they don’t prepare you for is, it’s not over after that. I was in pain, I was struggling to see, I had overwhelming fatigue and most of my hair fell out. I was in bed for the next two months,” he said.

Dave said that the first time he looked at his face in the mirror, he “couldn’t stop sobbing”.

“But I said, ‘Come on, Dave, you’re stronger than this, you’re still alive’. If they hadn’t removed that, I wouldn’t be here. So I tried to get a bit stronger every day and I was determined to walk a bit more,” he said.

He also underwent a skin graft surgery in which skin from his leg was removed and attached to his face to close up the hole. But after being in remission for two years, Dave suffered a seizure in which he had to be resuscitated twice. He then spent four days in a coma.

Tragically, Dave was told by doctors when he woke up that a second cancer had been discovered on his brain, which had caused him to have a seizure. He was given just three months to live.

He said: “I was in remission for the first cancer and I thought that was the end of it. I was devastated. I just sobbed. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I said, ‘Can’t you do anything?’ and they said, ‘We can’t, it’s too big.’ They said they couldn’t do radiotherapy or chemotherapy. I wanted to go away and enjoy what I had left.”

Following his second diagnosis, Dave moved from his hometown of Leicester to Grimsby to live close to his son and daughter. He said it was during a trip to Cleethorpes seafront that he decided he was going to beat the odds and fight cancer for the second time.

“I looked at the sea and I just said, ‘I’m going nowhere’. I looked at my grandkids and I thought, ‘I don’t care what they say, I’m going to beat this. I’m not ready to die and I’m not going anywhere’. I said to the consultants, ‘I know you told me I haven’t got long, and I appreciate what you’ve done for me, but I don’t care what you say, I’m going to beat cancer’. They said I had a really positive attitude and said they really hoped I do.

“Every day, I kept thinking positive and went to the seafront every day and kept thinking, ‘You need to see your kids and grandkids grow up’. I prayed every morning and every night.”

Six weeks later, he had another MRI scan – and subsequently received a call from doctors asking him to go back to the hospital.

Dave continued: “Doctors told me something strange was happening and they didn’t understand. They said, ‘We can’t explain it, but it’s shrinking. We don’t know why, we don’t understand’. I was more motivated and focused than ever that I was going to beat it.”

Another six weeks passed, and a second MRI scan revealed that the cancer had miraculously shrunk again.

“They basically gave me a death certificate and then said, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this’. How it went from being the size it was to now being reduced in size so much. It gradually got smaller and smaller and smaller, and they didn’t have a clue why,” Dave said. “If miracles exist, to me, that was it.”

But that still wasn’t the end of Dave’s battle. In October 2020, he suffered a second seizure in which he had to be resuscitated three times. He was placed into another coma. When he woke up, he was tragically told for a third time that the cancer had returned – to the other side of his brain.

“But I thought, ‘I beat the others, I’ll beat this one’. And when doctors looked at the MRI of the third cancer, they said they didn’t think it was life-threatening. That, to me, was a massive relief,” Dave said.

Within the next two years, Dave was also diagnosed with Addison’s Disease – a rare illness in which the body does not make enough of certain hormones – and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In early 2022, he was also diagnosed with low-level prostate cancer.

But even after attending more than 300 hospital appointments in the last five years and being on 52 medications a day, Dave said he is determined to keep a positive attitude and a smile on his face – despite others’ comments.

“The eye patch gives me constant headaches, but I don’t want to scare the kids. I’ve got used to saying, ‘I’m a pirate’ and the kids smile, but unfortunately in this world you get some horrible and ignorant people who take the mick.

“A few young kids were laughing at me in Freshney Place a few weeks ago and I laced into them verbally, and said, ‘It was cancer and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone’, and it shut them up. People clapped around me and said, ‘They deserved it’.”

He concluded: “Doctors told me I should’ve died five times in five years, but I haven’t. I’m hoping that 2023 is going to be my year. I hope this year I don’t have anything go wrong because every year, something has happened since 2017. I hope I can be fitter, more confident and more positive than I already am.

“I want people to think, ‘If he’s done it, so can I’. My goal now is to walk from John Groats to Lands’ End to raise money for all the people who have helped me. I’m giving myself four years to get myself to that level of fitness to be able to do that. That’s my goal.

“It’s been dark, but I can see a light.”

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