Honorary degree for mouth cancer pioneer

Lia Mills, author and co-founder of the annual Mouth, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness campaign, has been awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin.

The Dubliner was diagnosed with advanced squamous cell carcinoma in her cheek and gums in 2006, a year after her second novel, Nothing Simple, was published. She had surgery to remove the tumour from her lower jaw, along with part of her cheek and cheekbone, plus her lymph nodes and muscle and nerves from her neck and shoulder.

Following her recovery, she wrote In Your Face in 2007, a memoir of her diagnosis and treatment. Then, in 20ı3, she teamed up with Dr Denise MacCarthy, associate professor in restorative dentistry at Dublin Dental School to edit Word of Mouth – Coping with and Surviving Mouth, Head and Neck Cancers. The former radiographer also co-founded the Mouth, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness campaign, which has been running since 2011.

Speaking before collecting her award, she said: “This is a tremendous recognition of the entire mouth cancer awareness campaign and all the people who have worked on it. When I go up to receive the scroll, there will be a lot of hands upon it. It is very much a recognition of group work and a number of people coming together to work towards a single goal.”

Mills’s first novel, Another Alice, was published in 1996. Born in Dublin, she previously lived in London and America before returning to Ireland in 1990. She is now Arts Council Writer Fellow in UCD and writer-in-residence at Farmleigh House.