Matthew Lane is a high school basketball standout at Etowah High School in Woodstock, Georgia and was recently named 2nd Team All Region.
I was 15 years old when my mom first noticed something was wrong. I came home one day and she asked me if I had gotten hit in the face playing basketball. Being the 15-year-old kid that I was, I had no clue if I had been hit or not, and didn’t even notice my face was swollen. A few days passed; sure enough, my face was still swollen and we figured something might be wrong.
My mom took me to the doctor, who thought I had a blocked gland. I was prescribed a round of antibiotics and told the swelling in my jaw should go down within a week and everything would be fine. A week on the antibiotics passed, and still no change in the size of my jaw. Since I missed a day or two of my antibiotics, my doctors figured they should prescribe me more and emphasize the importance of taking them for the entire treatment course.
I was told that I likely wouldn’t play basketball again and that the surgery would likely make me walk with a limp.
Another week went by, and I completed all of the antibiotics. Still no change in the swelling or my jaw size. My mom decided it was best to take me to the dentist. After the normal X-rays, the dentist told me I had a tooth growing into my jaw bone and would need to see a specialist. The specialist told us there was a mass surrounding the tooth and that I would need to go to the hospital in Atlanta for further examination.
My oral surgeon at the hospital performed a biopsy. I was shocked when the results came back and he told me I had jaw cancer. Over the next few months I had several appointments preparing me for surgery. My ENT surgeon explained how he would work with my oral surgeon to transplant my fibula (a bone in the leg) to my jaw.
This is really when it started to hit me. I was told that I likely wouldn’t play basketball again and that the surgery would likely make me walk with a limp. They told me there was a possibility my face was going to look totally different and that they were literally going to take the whole left side of my jaw out and replace it with my fibula and a metal plate.
I came out with the best news of my life… they were able to leave enough bone in my leg for me to still be able to play basketball.
I was devastated and didn’t know how to handle the news. I cried and cried. Luckily, my support system was so strong and gave me the faith and confidence to get through all of this. I received countless prayers, cards, and messages of encouragement and advice to get me through this tough time.
Fast forward to the date of the surgery 3 months later in January 2017, and it was time for the moment of truth. Although my surgery was only supposed to take 12 hours, it lasted 18. I came out with the best news of my life. They had completely removed the tumor and they were able to leave enough bone in my leg for me to still be able to play basketball. I still had to be scanned to be sure they removed all of the cancer. A few months after surgery, I was scanned and given the good news that I was cancer-free and no chemotherapy or radiation would be required.
I thank God every day for the gift of life. I’m thankful to all of the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital who took care of me during and after surgery. I’m thankful for all of the prayers, cards, phone calls, and kind words everyone gave me. No matter what you’re faced with in life, with support, love, and faith, even the unthinkable can be overcome.
Fast forward to 2018–2019, I am 100% healthy and I had the best basketball season of my career. I am now able to help and hopefully inspire others by working with charity organizations such as Dream on 3, Sunshine on a Ranney Day, and the THANC Foundation that help other kids who face similar hardships or illnesses.
30 Stories in 30 Days
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by 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.