Wife & Mother, Daycare Provider, and Survivor of Tongue Cancer; Coto DeCaza, CA
In March 2020, at 37 years-of-age and with two little boys, Jamie faced a tongue cancer diagnosis.
She woke up one morning in December 2019 and thought she had bitten her tongue in her sleep, as she had a bump on the left side of her tongue. She waited a week or so for it to heal, but she felt like it wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it started to hurt a bit.
Jamie had a dental check-up scheduled and asked her dentists to examine it. He looked and said, “It was nothing to worry about.”
Something in her gut was telling her something was wrong, so Jamie made an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician. Immediately, after examining her, the ENT asked Jamie if she was a smoker. Jamie had never smoked a day in her life and her lifestyle is very healthy. A biopsy was performed, and she awaited the results. A week passed and she heard nothing, and the ol’ saying of “No news is good news” kept playing in her mind, so Jamie was fairly optimistic it was an inflamed tastebud or something. Then she received the call.
On March 2, she was informed she had an aggressive tongue cancer, and surgery was scheduled immediately to remove the 2cm tongue tumor. Jamie had to remain in the hospital for a week during the same time COVID-19 was spreading in the US.
Surgery was scheduled for March 23, 2020. Beforehand, Jamie recorded messages to her boys with the fear and sadness that loomed inside her, knowing that she may not be able to speak to them for a very long time. The day of surgery, her husband dropped her off curbside since he was not allowed in the hospital, and she knew she wouldn’t see him until he came back to take her home.
“It was extremely hard to go through this alone, but I knew I had to stay strong. They removed 1/3 of my tongue along with the lymph nodes on my left side,” explained Jamie. “I was determined to get home to heal so I had the nurses FaceTime my husband to teach him how to feed me through the feeding tube. In three days, I wowed the doctors and nurses, and proved I was ready to go home. I couldn’t talk still, but I just wanted to be home with my boys,” explained Jamie.
A month after surgery, Jamie started to talk again. Learning to talk all over again was frustrating for her. “I will never take the little things for granted ever again. I was off the feeding tube, but I could not move my tongue to manipulate food so it was a liquid diet still. The cancer had infiltrated my nerves so I would begin radiation in May for a duration of six weeks. I thought I had made it over the hard part...boy was I wrong. I’d rather go through surgery 100 times than have to do head & neck radiation again.”
Jamie experienced many radiation side effects: mouth sores, loss of taste, severe burns. “I stayed in bed all day, and I prayed that I could make it through to the end of this treatment. Finally, I made it to June 30th, 2020. I got to ring the bell!!”
She is now recovering while doing speech therapy to work on her throat tendons.
“This fight was not one I was ready to lace up for, but I showed up every day to battle, not for myself, but for my family. I continue to do everything I can to allow myself to have more time on this earth with them.”
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