The following story is by DeboraLee Edwards and was first published on our Facebook page. Deb has recently qualified as a real estate agent, attending classes with a PEG tube and port. She is from Roanoke, Virginia. She had to practise hard to get her smile straight for this photograph.
The Crooked Smile
My dentist assured me I did not have cancer. Although in my heart I felt something wasn't right I decided to believe him and it would eventually go away.
I went on with my life.
A month later I made a routine appointment with my internal medicine doctor and decided to ask him to look at the growth in my mouth. He looked at it very carefully 4 times and finally said the same thing. It's not cancer it will go away. I wanted to believe him but I still had my doubts.
It continued to hurt so much and continued to get worse it was like razors cutting the inside of my mouth. It was painful to talk and when asked to repeat myself I would feel angry because it caused me so much pain. Then it became painful to eat. I started telling my family I want hungry but in reality it hurt too much to eat. My ear began aching on the same side. More painful than swimmers ear. I had to sleep on large ice packs.
Still I waited but I began to realize this wasn't going to go away.
Finally my lymph node on the same side became enlarged the size of an elongated orange.
My Mom said I think you need to go to an ENT and get some antibiotics. The ENT listened to my journey that brought me to him and he examined my mouth and he said, "We need to do a biopsy. I said, "Okay, what do you suspect this might be?" Long pause....He looked at me with saddened eyes and said, "I'm pretty sure it's cancer." Wait.. What???? There it was the "c" word.
I said, "How sure are you?" (not able to say the "C" word) He said, "99% sure but the results of the biopsy will confirm my suspicion.
Still in disbelief I said, "Is there any chance you could be wrong?" He looked at me and quietly shook his head no. But he said "However, it's one of the only cancers that's curable if the patient doesn't wait.
Lump in my throat but I remained stoic.
I said, "What does this mean moving forward?"
Then he briefly explained the standard treatment plan. I could hardly believe all the steps that were about to take over my life. He kept talking and at one point and his mouth was moving but I could only hear the voice echoing in my head. Did he just say I was going to endure a 12-14 hour surgery to remove the floor of my mouth and possibly all or part of my tongue, neck resection, free flap, skin graft from my leg, feeding tube, trach, chemo port, radiation, chemotherapy, speech therapy, home care and IV therapy.
While waiting to be checked out at the reception desk I sat and thought to myself....I will be strong through this; I will never let my family know how hard this is going to be. I will never let them know I am terrified out of my mind. I WILL be brave. I will show my family how to be tough...
I WILL get through this and be thankful that God is giving me a second chance. I then prayed offered up all the suffering I was about to endure to God.
No one can look at something and tell you it's not cancer!!!
DO NOT WAIT!!!
by DeboraLee Edwards