As told to Britt Julious
When you get the diagnosis that you have any type of cancer, you’re a little taken aback. I got through it. It didn’t take me as long as some people.
There were a couple of different things that led to my diagnosis. First off, I chewed tobacco when I was in high school. That did not help. When I was doing it, I thought I was untouchable. ‘That’s not going to happen to me’—but eventually it did. It didn’t happen real soon. It took many years, but it eventually caught up. And being a tradesman, working outside, the sun, mixing the two together didn’t help my situation in any way, shape or form.
It looked like a blister on my lip. It was just a small thing. It would get bigger some days and it would get smaller. I didn’t pay much [attention] to it. After months of it not going anywhere, my son and my mom told me that
‘You really need to go get that looked at.’ I did and they found it to be cancerous. I had squamous cell carcinoma.
I had what was called a Mohs procedure. It was a long day. I went in, my procedure started at 7:30 in the morning. They cut out a portion of my lip and then they biopsied it. And there was more cancer. They kept cutting
until the cancer was gone. This procedure went on for about six hours. Finally, at about 5:00 in the evening, the doctor told me that she was not going to be able to salvage my bottom lip, that I would have to see a plastic surgeon to rebuild my lip. She had to cut out more than even she anticipated.
I was the plastic surgeon’s last consultation for the day and he looked at it. He gave me some hope because he goes, ‘You know, it’s not as bad as you think it is.’ He rearranged his schedule to get me in at 6:30 that following
morning and because it was still fresh. He re-lanced the lip and rebuilt it. Kudos to him. He did a good job because if you were to see me today, you would never know that three quarters of my bottom lip was removed two and a half years ago.
Right now, I have a normal life, other than I don’t have feelings in my bottom lip. For the most part, my life is back to normal. I still eat, drink, do everything. I’m still able to speak, but you have to give me a little distance because your saliva tends to build on your bottom lip. Sometimes I spit when I talk, let’s put it that way. I guess normality is how you define it.