Rugby mother’s life saved with a bicycle chain

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A woman with cancer of the jaw owes her life to a ‘bicycle chain’.

Liese Healing’s bone had been eaten away by the disease.

But metal used to make surgical equipment, wheelchairs and crutches was used in a risky 12-hour operation to save the 49-year-old mother of two.

She had to learn how to eat and speak again while she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy before finally finishing all of her cancer treatment on her birthday.

Liese, of Anderson Avenue, Rugby, said: “Doctors told me I could die in the operation but I had survived one cancer when my children were little and I wasn’t going to let this one beat me.

“At times it was really difficult to keep positive but I wanted to show my kids their mum was going to be OK. I don’t see any of it as being brave - when you’re told what the options are you just get on with it.”

It was a double blow for Liese when doctors discovered she had jawbone cancer in July - she had beaten ovarian cancer eight years earlier.

She was referred to one of the world’s leading head and neck reconstructive surgeons at University Hospital in Coventry.

They suggested taking tissue including artery and vein from other parts of her body to rebuild her jaw and use a titanium ‘chain’ to hold her jaw together.

A titanium chain – which looks just like an ordinary bike chain- was then fitted around her new reconstructed jaw to hold it together.

Skin from her stomach was grafted on to her arm to replace that had been taken away.

Titanium is used because it is an inert metal and therefore less likely to be rejected by the body than a foreign material. Holes are drilled into the chain plate in which screws are placed to hold it into the bone.

Liese, mother to Jono, 28, and Katie, 20, spent one month in hospital recovering from the operation and learning to use her new jaw and is now doing well.