Kristina’s Story

March 2002

After about two years, my father, Christopher, went to a doctor to consult about a large lump on his tongue although he fought my grandmother on the issue, due to monetary reasons.

Mtatooy father never smoked a day in his life but had poor oral hygiene and as a truck driver was around fumes for years. He had a biopsy and was taken to a more able facility. On July 9, 2002 he had surgery and removed almost a quarter to a third of his tongue. They found cancer in 30 lymph nodes and removed them and he had radiation five days a week for six weeks. He then was unable to eat and had a tube put in his stomach to feed himself. Even though he was losing weight, he refused to eat. He soon after started on chemotherapy and was ordered to stay in a rehab center. After a year and a half the cancer spread to his lungs and he finally passed away on October 31, 2003, five weeks after his 44th birthday.

I had a tough time dealing with my father’s death and started smoking with thoughts that everyone was going to die of cancer sometime. I didn’t smoke much, not anymore than a pack and a half a week. Over four years, I continually stopped and started again.

oral cancerIn November of 2007, I had noticed a canker sore type thing on my tongue. I was prone to canker sores, so I didn’t think much of it. By December it felt painful to eat, I hid what was becoming obvious to me. I was living with my paternal grandmother and felt a needed to protect her from the same painful events with her granddaughter.

I had enrolled in a university as I was planning to graduate from a community college in May. The University required a physical, and I was forced to go to a physician. Trembling, I stuck my tongue out to the physician’s assistant, and she started calling doctors before she would let me leave the room. She got me into an ear, nose and throat specialist by the end of the week, and he performed a biopsy less than two weeks later on April 1st. He contacted an otolaryngology surgeon for me to consult with.

oral cancerOn April 15, 2008, at the age of 25, I was in surgery. They took a “pie piece” of tongue out and my left lymph node in my neck. I had a tube through my nose to feed me, and a drain coming out of my collarbone. My tests were negative and the cancer had not spread to the rest of my body. I luckily escaped radiation, which would have given me permanent sunburn, caused me to lose all sense of taste, and have continual thick mucus. I slowly relearned to talk. I spent a summer in physical therapy in order to keep my head upright and move my left arm correctly. I survived for months on broth and mashed potatoes. I graduated from community college six weeks later. I am graduating with my B.A. in English in May 2010. I have an almost imperceptible lisp, and feel confident in my public speaking and singing skills. I tell everyone every time I bite my tongue and feel it. I still have some sensation on the left side of my tongue, but no feeling from my jaw line to the scar on my neck. I recently got a new tattoo of a design I came up with when I was in the hospital, in honor of my father and myself.

*****

Together we fight oral cancer. Together we save a life every hour.


*****

Together we fight oral cancer. Together we save a life every hour.

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