Jacquelyn Cashin

My cancer journey began about 15 years ago. I noticed that I had a lesion on my tongue, which I initially thought was a canker sore. However, after it did not heal for quite some time, I went to my ENT for an appointment. He looked at my tongue and immediately knew something was wrong.

That day, I had a biopsy, which came back positive for squamous cell carcinoma. Soon after, I had a partial glossectomy to remove the tumor from my tongue.

Since that initial surgery, I had over ten years of routine follow ups. Everything was normal. However, two years ago, another biopsy came back positive. My tongue cancer had returned. Another surgery was scheduled, and the procedure involved scraping precancerous cells from my tongue and transferring a skin graft from my thigh to my tongue. When I woke up from surgery, my surgeon told me that the cancer was deeper than expected, so they had to remove a greater part of my tongue than anticipated. I found out that the cancer was only one eighth of a centimeter away from my lymph node. I was lucky to have had surgery when I did, because if I had waited, it might have used the lymph nodes to metastasize! 

I always had hope that things would be better

Though I maintained a positive outlook throughout treatment, I will admit that the first two weeks after surgery were nasty. I had a bolster in my mouth to keep the skin graft in place. I basically had a big ball in my mouth. I could not drink anything except clear liquids for two weeks. For a while after that, I could only have soft foods. I will say, it was pretty painful.

Many people are afraid of the word “cancer,” but I don’t let it scare me

However, I always had hope that things would be better. I focused on the fact that this recovery process was temporary. Now, I have a slight deformity and a lisp, but I don’t even think about it. I am just thankful to still be here.

If I could give a few words of advice to current patients, they would be: “hang in there”

Many people are afraid of the word “cancer,” but I don’t let it scare me. The doctors tell me that my cancer is extremely aggressive, that it will likely recur again. In the back of my head, I anticipate that this may happen, but I try to not dwell on it. I have big faith in God and I have trust in my doctors. Whether things are good or bad, I put my life in God’s hands and that has helped me tremendously.

If I could give a few words of advice to current patients, they would be: “hang in there.” Live each day one at a time. Take deep breaths and move forward. And most importantly, do not be discouraged.