30 Stories in 30 Days
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by oral cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.
Before my cancer diagnosis, I lived a normal, regular life. It was all good: I exercised regularly, and my family and work life were all good. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either.
One day my dentist noticed some white spots on my cheek. They did a biopsy, and it came back negative. We assumed it was an infection, so I got some ointment, and spots went away.
A couple of years later, the white spots inside my cheek came back, and they were getting bigger. I still wasn’t worried. I thought it was just an infection that was persisting. But then a small lump started to form. I got sent to a specialist, who biopsied the lump and gave me the bad news: malignancy.
I was in total disbelief. Cancer diagnosis was the last thing I expected. It was shocking. I told my friends and family that my doctor recommended I have surgery. It helped that I didn’t think of it as a big deal… but it ended up being a bigger deal than I first thought.
The doctors borrowed bone from my shin bone to reconstruct my jaw
In the first surgery, my doctor removed the tumor in my cheek and replaced it with muscle and skin from a part of my forearm. Then they took a skin graft from my thigh. Everything healed well and I thought I was all done.
In recovery, I lifted weights and performed body-weight exercises. My workout routine helped me through the process. Then I had to undergo radiation therapy, which made me tired and dizzy. But I powered through by gradually returning to my old routines. I didn’t want to just sit around – I worked and exercised, little by little getting gaining back my old strength.
After treatment, my outlook on life changed drastically. I felt more gratitude in my daily life. My relationship with God became closer; my faith played a big role in getting through the cancer process. I also focused on my music, and started doing performances for cancer charity events. We started a group called HIP HOP AGAINST CANCER (facebook.com/hiphopagainstcancer). Overall, I stopped sweating the small stuff.
As I approached 5 years post-diagnosis, I experienced a recurrence. I felt pain in the same area, and had to undergo another surgery. This time I was in the hospital longer than a month. The doctors borrowed bone from my shin bone to reconstruct my jaw, but it didn’t keep – so they went back in and borrowed more bone from my other leg. Finally, bone fusion was accomplished, and my surgery was successful.
My words of advice to anyone going through a cancer journey: You gotta think positive. The mind affects the body. Your strongest muscle is your brain. You must be grateful for every day you’re alive. I can’t lie, sometimes I fear the chance of another recurrence. But I don’t dwell on the negative thoughts… I try to think positive. “I can do this. I will make it through.” Turn to your faith, whatever that may be. Even if you’re not a religious person, find your faith and maintain positivity. It will make all the difference.