A former railway worker who was told he had just six months to live after he was diagnosed with mouth cancer has shared his story in a bid to raise awareness of the disease.

Alan Gilbert, 71, who lives in Walthamstow, was on a routine visit to the dentist in 2018 when a small ulcer was discovered on his tongue.

Due to the position of this ulcer, Alan’s tongue needed to be partially removed and this caused his mouth and throat to become disabled, his speech distorted and eating became difficult.

Mr Gilbert, who does not smoke or drink alcohol, underwent a glossectomy to remove the cancer, as well as radiotherapy, but the cancer returned in November 2019 and he was told the crushing news that he could die within six months.

However the former Virgin Trains manager fought on though the gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy and against the odds, the tumour shrank and all current indications are that the cancer is dormant.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Alan Gilbert making ice-cream at the London Clinic. Image: Gilbert familyAlan Gilbert making ice-cream at the London Clinic. Image: Gilbert family (Image: Gilbert family)

Mr Gilbert, who has received treatment at the London Clinic ever since his first diagnosis, said: "I’ve much to be thankful for.

"When you’re living with mouth cancer, every day’s a bonus. I’m not out of the woods yet but right now, I am living in the moment and I’m thankful to be here."

Mr Gilbert still experiences symptoms including difficulty talking but consultant Dr Amen Sibtain has been impressed by Mr Gilbert's response to treatment. He said: "It has been an absolute pleasure to look after Alan, who has consistently been very motivated and positive.

"He has not let his illness affect his quality of life and he has taken ownership of the difficulties that it has thrown at him."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Alan and his sister Susan. Image: Gilbert familyAlan and his sister Susan. Image: Gilbert family (Image: Gilbert family)

Alongside his voluntary work with local charities and the foodbank, Mr Gilbert, along with his sister and carer Susan, is passionate about raising awareness of head and neck cancer. More than 8,700 new mouth cancer cases diagnosed in the UK every year.

Ms Gilbert, said: "Alan has always been so healthy, particularly with food and exercise… it shows that anyone can find themselves in the grip of this awful disease, so we want to make people aware of the signs."