Tongue Cancer Survivor Shares Her Inspiring Journey

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“It comes down to a simple choice really: get busy living, or get busy dying.” -Red from Shawshank redemption

Laurie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma-tongue in 2013. She has successfully defeated her disease.

The Diagnosis

“In 2013 I had an ulcer on the side of my tongue that wouldn’t heal. It looked like a plain canker sore, and yet it didn’t go away. After months of ignoring it, I consulted an ENT who recommended a biopsy. Five days later I was told I had squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue and needed a PET scan, MRI and Surgery.”

 

The Journey

“After my diagnosis, my scans were negative for metastatic disease. I had surgery to remove the tongue lesion. I also had lymph nodes in my neck biopsied to assure there was no spread. They were negative so everyone was reassured. Unfortunately, 9 months later I felt a small mass in my neck. Of course, it was cancer. It was in my neck after all but was too early to be seen on scans or biopsies.

At that point, I was diagnosed with advanced Stage 3 disease and would require a large surgery to remove all of the 54 nodes in my right neck, as well as full head and neck radiation and chemotherapy. I had all of this in 2014 and the Radiation was by far the worst experience of my life. But I got through it. Four months later my scans were thankfully negative. They remained negative up until last year and now I’m followed just with exams. So I am now four years NED!”

Motivation to fight cancer

“I was only 41 years old and a mom of two small kids who were 4 and 8 years at the time. I wasn’t supposed to have oral cancer. I was a non-smoker and HPV negative and still, no one knows why I got it. I’m also a doctor and a wife and had so many things I still wanted to do. I needed to do whatever I had to do to survive, and that was that. What motivated me most was not abandoning my sweet children.”

Biggest hindrance

“The side effects of radiation were extreme and miserable. I couldn’t eat or speak. I lost the ability to swallow and to taste. I lost 25 pounds. It was an utter disaster. I also was frequently depressed and anxious. I got through it by accepting every ounce of support from my family and friends.”

 

Message to other cancer patients

“You can do it. Accept the help when it is offered. You don’t have to do it alone. We tend to not want to accept help as we don’t feel comfortable taking from others. But humans want and need to help, that is how they cope with you being ill. It’s important for not just you but them. Also, when things are tough, take them an hour at a time, or even 5 mins at a time. Don’t think too far ahead or you may get immediately overwhelmed. Only think about what is immediately in front of you.”

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