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  1. ITV Report

Woman gets new tongue made from part of her arm

Joanne Smith from Bedford has had a new tongue made from part of her arm. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A grandmother from Bedford, who lost her tongue to cancer has had a new one made from part of her arm.

Joanna Smith first noticed something was wrong in her mouth in October 2018 but was initially told by doctors it was just an ulcer.

After it continued to get bigger and more painful, Joanna went to hospital and had the news that changed her life.

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Sascha Williams

"They said I had to have it removed and if I didn't, I wouldn't see Christmas coming.

"So it was a no brainer. I thought I want to see my grandchildren and i want to see my kids. I want to see life."

– Joanne Smith

In January Joanna had surgery at the Luton and Dunstable hospital to remove most of her tongue.

Doctors then made a new one using skin from her leg.

But after it turned black and failed her surgeons tried again, this time using muscles from her arm.

At first Jonanne Smith was told her cancer was just an ulcer.

Joanne says her speech began to return after the swelling went down.

She said: "I have just got use to it now. I am happy that I am here, the cancer has gone and it is not in me anymore. I just wanted to get it out."

Joanne Smith with her daughter Charlotte Lagatta. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"At first I was in denial because I thought it was just an ulcer - I just didn't want to believe it.

"You just never think it is going to happen to you and it really does.

"Hopefully she will be fine, she is still under Macmillan for five years. They are still taking care of her.

"I think until five years is up you can never feel like you can breath properly. It is just a waiting game really."

– Charlotte Lagatta, Joanna's daughter