My story began during a routine trip to my dentist’s office. My dentist saw something suspicious on my gums and told me to follow up with a periodontist. The doctor performed a biopsy of my gums which came back positive for squamous cell carcinoma. The doctor then recommended I go see a head and neck specialist for further testing.
The doctor took x-rays which backed up the results of the biopsy. I was told I would have to have surgery to remove the cancer. Although the news was difficult to hear, I was fortunate enough to have the support of a tremendous medical care team. I was able to discuss my plan of care with many different specialists who all worked under the same umbrella. Although I had a lot of anxiety about my situation, my team did a great job of making me feel at ease throughout the whole process. They helped me feel upbeat about my fight against cancer.
During the surgery, the doctors removed four of my bottom molars. They also took out part of my jaw bone and replaced it with a portion of bone from another part of my body. Then, they took a graft of skin from my thigh to cover my jaw. Finally, they did a neck dissection and removed some of my lymph nodes.
After the surgery, I dealt with some swelling. Since I had some of my teeth removed I had to see a prosthodontist to be fitted for a denture. My prosthodontist was ready to give me a temporary denture right after my surgery, but then we decided I didn’t need it. Instead, we held off until after my swelling subsided, at which point the doctor placed a more permanent denture. Thanks to his excellent work, I have not had to go back for another fitting since the denture was placed!
I also had to work with a speech pathologist who gave me plenty of exercises to do. I completed every recommended exercise, and never had to worry about seeing any other specialists elsewhere. These exercises helped me a lot and now I have no problem talking. My speech pathologist and my prosthodontist were both very important people in my cancer journey—I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.
If I had to give one piece of advice to other patients dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I would say that maintaining a positive attitude is essential. In life, I always prefer to consider the glass half-full. I never let myself get devastated about anything. I believe this attitude helped me tremendously throughout my fight against cancer.
Will You Share Your Journey?
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. As part of that theme, we post stories written by oral cancer survivors, caregivers and medical professionals for our 30 Stories in 30 Days™ campaign. The insights they share can help others along their journey.