Andy Mackay has had a long and successful career as a saxophonist – notably with British art rock group Roxy Music.
In April 2017 Andy had successful treatment for throat cancer at Imperial Private Healthcare using state-of-the-art robotic surgery.
“As a wind instrument player, you are always aware of health problems that affect your mouth and throat. I had had a low-level sore throat for about eighteen months, but when I started bringing up a little blood when I cleared my throat I thought it was time to get it checked out. A musician friend of mine had died of throat cancer earlier in the year and I suppose it was at the back of my mind.
In March 2017 I decided to see an ENT (ears, nose & throat) specialist and went to see Mr. Alistair Mace in Harley Street who unfortunately diagnosed me with stage two throat cancer. From the beginning, I was reassured that it was likely to be treatable and there were a number of options for me. We talked about radiotherapy, but cancer surgery was also mentioned. Mr. Mace had explained that he wouldn’t be the right consultant for my case as the laser surgery he undertook wasn’t suitable for my type of cancer, but he did suggest that I was referred to the oncology team at Imperial Private Healthcare who would be able to give me other cancer treatment options.”
“I had outstanding support from the speech and language therapy team and the dietitians”
“I was introduced to Mr. Zaid Awad at Charing Cross Hospital. Mr. Awad reviewed my case and told me that there was a good chance that either radiotherapy or surgery would be successful. With the options in front of me, I considered the potential side effects. As a sax player, I was particularly concerned about the effect of radiotherapy on my salivary glands. Food and drink are also really important to me, and I felt life would be miserable if I couldn’t enjoy them either. After discussing my choices further with my nephew who is also a surgeon, I was encouraged to go for the cancer surgery.
Mr. Awad was offering a robotic cancer treatment called TORS (transoral robotic surgery), which is only offered at a handful of centres in the country. This surgery is apparently ideal for cancers in the middle of the throat which are otherwise difficult to reach.
Within a month I had my surgery at St Mary’s Hospital, London and was transferred to Charing Cross Hospital for recovery the next day. The operation went very well and I remember feeling comparably OK straight afterward. Unfortunately, although we are not sure why, I suffered some complications 24 hours later which meant I had to be moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit, which was also covered by my insurance. After further surgery by Mr. Awad, I spent three weeks in the intensive care unit (ITU). I cannot fault the care I had there. Although I was not fully conscious I remember that everyone was very kind and helpful to me and my wife Lucinda, who was able to stay with me. Ultimately, despite this setback, the surgery was extremely successful.
After my ITU experience, I moved into a private room at Charing Cross Hospital where the focus was on my rehabilitation. I had outstanding support from the speech and language therapy team and the dietitians. Even swallowing a sip of water was hard to begin with, but with their help, I progressed quickly. I had to relearn how to bite and to swallow. They even got me singing as part of my treatment and I had my saxophone bought to the hospital so that I could practice.
Six months on and everything is pretty much back to normal. I can eat and drink as before and I am able to return to my saxophone. Although I am semi-retired and no longer touring, I am still working on music projects. I am close to completing a major project – a setting of psalms in Hebrew, English and Latin for sax and other instruments and string orchestra. I hope to premiere this in 2018.
I chose to have private cancer treatment as I had had private medical insurance for a very long time because of the nature of my job. You need to be fit as quickly as possible because of the potential for letting people down. But I am a passionate supporter of the NHS and I am pleased that the income from my private treatment with Imperial Private Healthcare benefits patients in the NHS too.
I would certainly recommend my cancer treatment to other patients in a similar position to me.
I am very grateful to Mr. Awad and his team and they were a great support throughout that period of my life.”