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A man who hadn't been to the dentist for 27 years had to have his jaw removed after he was found to have a tumour the size of a fist in his jawline.
Darren Wilkinson, 51, was diagnosed with ameloblastoma after a dental appointment showed a 'big shadow' in the middle of his skull.
Support worker Darren, who lives with wife Mel in Sheffield, is now unable to talk, eat or drink after having 90 percent of his jaw removed.
Mel, 53, said: "I have been trying for years to get him registered at the dentist and eventually was able to book him an appointment.
"He was so afraid of going to the dentist that he hadn't gone for 27 years.
"He really doesn't like dentists but as he went along he came back white as a sheet.
"He had an x-ray showing a massive shadow, a black hole in the middle of his face and the dentist said he had never seen anything like that before.
"He would wake up in the morning with blood on his pillow and have a really bad breath from time to time.
"I just thought he wasn't brushing his teeth properly."
After the dentist found the worrying shadow on the x-ray, Darren was referred as a non-urgent case to the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield.
After two biopsies, it was confirmed that it was a 'large, locally aggressive tumour' called an ameloblastoma that needed to be removed as soon as possible.
An operation to remove 90 percent of the lower jaw and insert titanium plates was originally scheduled for 20 March, but this had to be postponed until April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, a week later Darren had to be rushed in for emergency surgery after developing sepsis, and ended up having to undergo a further six emergency surgeries due to complications and infections.
Mel, a former teacher, added: "Christmas was hell because we were told it could have been a tumour but we knew from the X-ray it was the size of a fist.
"He wasn't allowed to eat anything solid because his jaw was so thin in places it would just fracture.
"Getting the diagnosis was absolutely horrific. It's so rare, we were told the odds of him getting it is one in five million. It felt like living with a time bomb.
"I dropped him off at the hospital and drove away-it was the longest, most desolate day of my life. He was so ill, he said he could 'feel every organ in his body shutting down'.
"Now when I look inside his mouth I can clearly see the exposed metal plates, wires and the dead bone. He can't eat or drink, talk, his tongue has swollen so much, he can barely breathe.
"It's looking extremely likely that he will never be able to return to work. He was very concerned about how he was going to look - now he feels like a big drooling baby."
Now the plan is for Darren to get a transplant from his lower leg bones to try and rebuild his jaw.
He has also set up online support groups to help people facing similar diagnoses, and has put a huge effort into raising awareness of little-known tumours while also raising money for the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
As Darren can't return to work anytime soon, he and Mel have set up a GoFundMe page to help them: uk.gf.me/v/c/gfm/darren-wilkinson039s-big-fight
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