King’s Lynn man Andy Gerber tells how he fought off rare cancer
- Credit: Sarah Roberts.
When Andy Gerber from Kings Lynn visited his dentist in November 2016 with a suspected abscess he had no idea what lay ahead for him and his family over the next nine months.
Following an x-ray, Mr Gerber's dentist immediately referred him to specialists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.
After a series of tests including a biopsy and MRI scans Mr Gerber was told he had stage four jawbone cancer.
Over the following months Mr Gerber and his wife attended nine appointments in seven weeks.
'Every time I went to the hospital I just started shaking.' Said Mr Gerber.
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Who, when told his diagnoses in December chose to delay the operation until the New Year so he could spend what he thought would be his last Christmas with at home with his family.
Samantha, Mr Gerber's wife recalls that Christmas; 'It was pretty tough and getting through Christmas was difficult, trying to put on a smile when we knew what was coming was really hard.'
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On January 5, Mr Gerber went into surgery to remove the tumour in his jaw at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
During which, a team of surgeons working simultaneously on Mr Gerber's jaw and leg, removed the section of jawbone where the tumour was and replaced it with a piece of bone taken from his leg.
All in all the surgery took 10 hours.
'He was so worried he wasn't going to pull through' said Mrs Gerber.
But Mr Gerber did survive the surgery and he clearly remembers the moment he came around from the anaesthetic;
'When I woke up, I thought to myself now I'm going to fight this,'
And that is exactly what the 55-year-old father of two did.
Within six days of the surgery, Mr Gerber had re-taught himself how to eat and speak despite the removal of some of the muscles in his jaw and tongue Mr Gerber was back at home.
'It was ever so strange to come home again because I was in a wheelchair and couldn't walk.' Recalls Mr Gerber but his resolve continued and within five months Mr Gerber was back at work.
Mrs Gerber accredited her husband's swift recovery to his sheer determination, 'I couldn't be more proud of him, he has been so motivated, it's a credit to his character.'
Less than a year after his diagnoses Mr Gerber is back in his role as a nonferrous metals manager at recycling centre in Kings Lynn.
Michaela Gerber, Mr Gerber's daughter described her father's recovery; 'He's improved in leaps and bounds and is practically back to his old self.
'I can't thank the hospital and doctors enough.'
It was with this sentiment that Mrs Gerber and her daughter came up with the idea of shaving their heads in order to raise money for the hospital which treated Mr Gerber.
Mr Gerber said: 'I started crying when they told me what they were going to do.'
Adding that he hoped his story would encourage other people with a diagnoses of jawbone cancer to find hope in the fact that it is possible to make a recovery.
On Sunday August 6, in front of a family and friends, Mrs Gerber, Michaela Gerber and Bradley Gerber all allowed their hair and in Bradley Gerber's case his beard as well to be shaved off in aid of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn.
'Because of the type of cancer it is you don't hear a lot about it, but because he's survived we wanted to give something back.' Said Mrs Gerber.
Although not all the donations have been counted the family believe they have raised around £1000.
There a number of organisations who provide support for and information for those and their families who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Visit www.nhs.uk or www.cancerresearchuk.org for more information.