Cancer survivor and patient advocate Millie McConnell survived cancer 16 years ago, only to find her teeth disintegrating. She’s seeking funding for dentures. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Fraser Valley woman scrambles for dental surgery funding after chemo destroys her teeth

Millie McConnell survived cancer, but the after effects are proving costly and difficult

A Fraser Valley woman who beat a lethal bout of cancer years ago is now facing the loss of her teeth thanks to the treatments that saved her life.

Millie McConnell was given three months to live after a diagnosis of stomach cancer 16 years ago.

“I reached that point where it was out of my hands, and I just put it up to the powers that be,” McConnell said.

She was diagnosed late, because she believed the symptoms of the cancer were irritable bowel syndrome, she said.

Once she was in the hands of oncologists, she received aggressive treatment. That included simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy, which caused her to drop from 160 pounds down to 80 pounds.

She also had her stomach surgically removed, and part of her intestine turned into a pouch to replace it.

Her survival was unlikely, but since then, McConnell has made a substantial recovery. Although she was too weakened and impacted by her cancer and its treatment to return to work, she has spent time working with advocacy groups like the Debbie’s Dream Foundation, which lobbied for more funding for stomach cancer research.

She also spent time as a motivational speaker and regularly reaches out to other cancer patients and survivors, as well as speaking to physicians about the success of the surgery that removed her stomach.

But the chemotherapy that saved her had long-term side effects.

“Over all this time, my teeth were breaking down,” she said. “I was getting fillings on fillings on fillings.”

Her teeth are riddled with cavities and one is essentially hollow.

“They’re breaking down,” McConnell said. “ALmost everything I eat, I end up with pieces of teeth in it.”

She’s had to be extremely cautious about her dental hygiene to avoid a serious infection.

When she was told the best option was to simply have all of them pulled out, McConnell wasn’t even upset.

“I was already at that stage, I wanted them out,” she said. “Because it was a losing battle.”

The problem was how to pay for the dental surgery and any replacements, including dentures.

McConnell has been on disability for years, unable to hold down a regular job due to the after effects of her cancer and treatment. Among other issues, she still gets confused easily, a side effect known as “chemo brain.” She also has to eat high-protein meals every two to three hours to accommodate her altered digestive system.

McConnell’s husband works from home buying and selling truck parts, but the couple has essentially been living on a low income for years, and doens’t have the savings for dentures, much less dental implants.

Her friend Lorinda Ramsay was the one who set up a GoFundMe campaign to try to help out.

“Millie spends all her time at home on her computer, mentoring people with stomach cancer who have only a few months to live,” said Ramsay. “She does it because she cares.”

Ramsay wanted to help out, and she’s hoping other people who have known someone with cancer will be able to help as well.

A first GoFundMe attempted to raise $60,000 for dental implants for all of McConnell’s teeth, but fell well short of the goal.

The current GoFundMeCampaign is much more modest in scope – McConnell is hoping to receive a mere $1,700 for a full set of dentures.

If she raises about $2,500, she might be able to afford two dental implants for the bottom of her jaw to help anchor the lower dentures.

Anyone who wishes to donate or learn more can visit the GoFundMe campaign through this link.

READ MORE: Conquering cancer and learning to be a public speaker

Just Posted

UPDATE: ‘Spontaneous combustion’ likely cause of fire at mushroom composting facility on Lougheed Highway

First responders were at the blaze near the Skawahlook First Nation Tuesday

Approval for AirBnB-style rentals in Kent delayed after public hearing

Staff will be taking the bylaw amendments back for a closer look before final adoption

Kent Harrison Emergency Support team honoured for work during 2017 wildfire season

The volunteer group was activated for 254 days in a row to help evacuees

Trial dates set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Lawyers for the accused appeared in Kelowna at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday

Wildfire threatens weekend campers at Chehalis Lake

The fire started on the north side of Chehalis Lake Saturday

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Plane veers off runway, into ditch at Langley Airport

Fire, ambulance, and police are on scene

Okanagan RCMP bike patrol rolls up on alleged stolen vehicle from Burnaby

The driver, a 30-year-old Kelowna man, has been held in custody and is facing possible charges of possession of stolen property and obstructing a police officer

Most Read