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Laura, Grateful Patient to Dr. Terry Tsue

LauraSquamous Cell Carcinoma

My story begins in February 2010. I was in the last semester of my senior year at Staley High School.  It was the end of February when I noticed what I thought was a canker sore on my tongue.  I ignored it for about a week and a half but it wasn't going away. So I finally said something to my mom, and by that time it had doubled in size. We began seeing doctor after doctor in March. Everyday the sore would grow and change. It got to the point where I couldn't eat anymore because it hurt.  I had to resort to protein drinks. I had seen several doctors by the time I had my first biopsy done which came back inconclusive. We were finally sent to Dr. Dunlap of UMKC School of Dentistry, and he did a larger biopsy. By the next day he had called with the results.  My family sat and talked about what kind of cancer it was. I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  I was quiet at first because I was so angry.  I didn't want to hear anything else or know anything more.  It was so painful and scary.  Soon after I understood everything and I just broke down. My body got hot, my heart began to race, and I was sobbing with tears in my parents arms. My brother sat across the room holding back his tears. The next few days weren't any easier. My parents and I met with administrators at school and we sent an email to all my teachers and other administrators informing them of my situation.  They were all very supportive.

We met with Dr. Terry Tsue for the first time and we set a surgery date for May 12th.  Dr. Tsue understood that I wanted to go to my graduation and hoped that I would be feeling well enough after surgery to be able to go.Through surgery, he cut out a large portion of my tongue and a number of lymph nodes from my neck. The day after surgery I was up and ready to go. I felt just fine, granted a lot of it was the drugs, but the painful tumor was gone. I was released from the hospital 5 days later. My body was healing much faster than anyone expected it to. A week later was my graduation. I was so happy I was able to walk with my class and my best friend across the stage.
The summer went on and I was gradually healing. Unfortunately, I began to notice a mass growing in my neck. By July it had grown a lot and felt like it was just under the size of a golf ball. We made an appointment to see Dr. Tsue again. He felt the mass, and immediately thought it was a tumor. He wanted to be sure so a CT and biopsy were done. Dr. Tsue told me that I should hold off on my first semester of college and that I would need to undergo radiation. As my parents and I heard this bad news yet again, I was livid with my body and I could not contain my tears. My parents stayed strong for me so they could continue asking questions. Dr. Tsue told me how sorry he was and that they are going do their best to kill this disease inside me. We had the surgery date set for August 11th.
Surgery went well and I began treatments on September 7th, 2010. About 2 weeks into treatment I noticed a new bump growing in my neck. They did a CT scan and it came back positive. To treat this 3rd tumor they increased the dosage of radiation to this one spot. My body was feeling the effects.  I began losing my hair, my voice and my taste. I finally finished treatment on October 21st but continued to feel sick.  I had a CT done December 3rd and it came back clear.  I began to feel better and started to eat more.  I have remained cancer free and I have started college. My life is back on track the way it should be. I am so grateful to have a surgeon as wonderful as Dr. Tsue, a chemo doctor as great as Dr. Neupane, and a radiation doctor like Dr. Wang. I am thankful for the doctors and staff and all they have done for me.  I am happy to say that just about all my taste is back! This is definitely an event in my young life that I will never forget.

Last modified: Sep 28, 2018