Breaking a tooth saved my life, says mother, 34, who discovered she was 'weeks from death' from mouth cancer.

When Lisa Epsom broke her tooth opening her son's juice bottle, she thought it would just require a quick trip to the dentist.

In fact, it led to her losing half her face after the dentist discovered mouth cancer which was so advanced, she was just weeks from death.

After a 14-hour operation to remove the tumour, she said: 'That Fruit Shoot bottle saved my life.

'Had I not opened it with my teeth, I would not be here.

'I've lost my looks and feel disfigured. People stare at me in the street but I'm alive and I can watch my kids grow up, so it's a small price to pay.

'Now I want others to be more aware of mouth cancer - because I had never even heard of it.'

'He said I could be dead within weeks. The first thing I thought about was my kids and who would look after them if I died. I was only 33 at the time.'

Ms Epsom, of Abbey Wood, South East London, was told she had adenoid cystic carcinoma of the hard palate, a rare form of mouth cancer requiring urgent treatment.

The single mother of four and son from a later relationship who live with her — says: 'After the doctor told me it was cancer, I went home and went through all the motions, giving my two younger children their tea, bathing them and reading their bedtime story.

'But inside I felt like a robot. All I could think about was not being alive to do these things with them.

'My two older kids needed me too, so I knew I had to be strong.

As well as being mother to Maison, six and Tiffany, two, Ms Epsom, a single mother, has two older children, Sarah, 14, and Natasha, 12, who live with their father.

She said: 'Dying just wasn't an option for me. One of the consultants even joked that chipping my tooth wasn't so unlucky after all.'

CT and MRI scans were arranged to see how far the cancer had spread - and there was bad news when a biopsy through her revealed a golf ball sized tumour under her nose and cheek.

Ms Epsom was horrifed to be told that had she gone another six to eight weeks without treatment, she would have died.

She said: 'I had no idea I had been so close to death. It was so shocking because I'd felt so well.'

Two weeks later, in December 2013, she underwent major surgery.

Eventually Tiffany got used to her mother's new appearance.

Ms Epsom said: 'I can't pretend it didn't bother me, but if I had to choose between my looks and watching my kids grow up, there really is no contest.'

She left hospital a month after her operation, though she still had to have six weeks of radiotherapy, from January to March 2014.