Bucks Fizz star Jay Aston and her fellow Eurovision winners have thanked doctors who helped her beat mouth cancer earlier this year.
Jay, 57, even recorded a Christmas album with the band before surgery in July, in case she was not able to sing again – and they all paid tribute to medics who helped save her in the sleeve notes.
Surgeons also performed the operation in a way which did not make it harder for the singer to perform the skirt-ripping routine which helped them win the song contest in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up.
The singer returned to the ward at Guy’s Hospital, where she spent 10 days recuperating after a seven-hour operation to remove a section of her tongue and lymph nodes.
Jay was joined by bandmates Cheryl Baker and Mike Nolan, who met the team which cared for her during her stay.
Now cancer free, Jay, from Westerham in Kent, had a section of the left side of her tongue removed from front to back. Surgeons Alastair Fry and Luke Cascarini performed microvascular surgery to successfully transplant tissue from her thigh to reconstruct her tongue.
Jay, who started singing again in November, said: “I’m here and I wasn’t sure I was going to see Christmas, so I’m very happy
“It is quite emotional to be back and it’s lovely to see all these faces because for a while I wasn’t talking. I did a lot of writing on boards before I could speak and then the world opened up.
“It has been a bit of a journey and I notice every few weeks that I improve so I wanted to come back and thank everyone that looked after me.”
Around 6,800 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK – more than 18 every day – and Jay received her diagnosis whilst making the band’s new album “Christmas with The Fizz”. She recorded all of her vocals before the operation, unsure if she’d be able to speak or sing again.
Bandmate Cheryl Baker said: “It was much bigger than just an operation. It was a matter of life and death, as well as Jay’s career.”
Consultant oral maxillofacial surgeon Alastair Fry explained how the team adapted the surgery so the band could still do the famous skirt ripping routine to their hit Making Your Mind Up. He said: “Conventionally we do an incision from the knee to the hip but we moved it in and up which made it a bit harder to do but less visible for Jay’s work.
“We’re trying to get people through the treatment safely so they can carry on doing what they do. That’s what we want.
“One of the things about head and neck cancer is the impact it has on people’s speech, swallow, and appearance. So it is a challenge to remove the cancer and make sure as far as possible you maintain all those important parts of quality of life.
“Treating someone who is a professional singer and dancer, where it’s their livelihood, comes with a big challenge and shows how far some of the treatments have come that we can do it and they go back to work within a few months of treatment.”
The Fizz, who have sold 15 million records worldwide, have recorded their gratitude for the care Jay received in the sleeve notes to their album which reads: “PS from Mike and Cheryl, thank you, Guy’s Hospital for giving us our Jay back. We are eternally in your debt”.
Alastair added: “Jay’s cancer was caught at an early stage. The earlier cancers are caught the more effectively they can be treated so we’d encourage people to come forwards and see specialists if there’s any mouth ulcers that don’t heal in a couple of weeks.”
Lizzie Hunt, matron for Blundell ward, said: “Jay has recovered so well and it was great to see her again. She was very driven to get home as soon as possible and it’s lovely to hear how Jay is back singing and performing – doing what she loves.”
The fourth member of Bucks Fizz, Bobby Gee, left to go solo in the 1980s.