‘Sore on my tongue turned out to be cancer – I couldn’t eat for a YEAR and lost half my body weight’

Danielle, 46, shares her journey of battling tongue cancer, urging others to prioritize regular screenings and trust their instincts for early detection.
Danielle the woman suffering from mouth cancer is sharing her inspiring story of recovery.
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A woman has been left unable to speak or eat properly after a lesion on her tongue turned out to be cancer.

Danielle, 46, spotted the scratch on the left side of her tongue in spring 2022, but it wasn’t until six months later that the pain became excruciating.

Struggling to even eat, she was sent for tests and the writer was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

READ MORE: ‘I was shocked when tiny DOTS on my skin turned out to be CANCER,’ says woman, 20

Danielle the woman suffering from mouth cancer is sharing her inspiring story of recovery.
Danielle before surgery. (Picture: Jam Press)

She had to undergo a massive operation to remove it that September, removing a third of her tongue, and reconstructing it using skin, muscles, tendons and veins from other parts of her body.

The ordeal has changed her life forever.

Now, Danielle has shared her story to raise awareness for seemingly-innocent changes to the body, such as the lesion on her tongue.

“The lesion felt like I had bitten my tongue, and got progressively more painful until it was unbearable,” Danielle, from New Jersey, US, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.

“I was concerned but didn’t have any idea it could be something as bad as it ended up being.

“I had absolutely no other symptoms.”

Danielle was horrified when she was diagnosed with cancer in August 2022, and was one month later sent for surgery.

Danielle the woman suffering from mouth cancer is sharing her inspiring story of recovery.
Danielle in hospital after surgery. (Picture: Jam Press)

She said: “I had an 11-hour surgery that removed a third of my tongue and 45 lymph nodes from my neck.

“I was on a feeding tube for the better part of a year and lost half my body weight due to my inability to eat.

“It felt like a living hell.

“I was in hospital for three weeks and a rehab centre for a week after my operation.

“I also had a few trips to the emergency department because of complications with my feeding tube.

“I moved back in with my parents, who took care of me.

“Skin, muscle, tendons, and veins had to be taken from my arm to reconstruct my tongue.

“My left arm is maimed due to the harvesting of tissue, and I have residual pain, weakness and numbness on the surgical site, as well as nerve pain and numbness in my left hand.

Danielle the woman suffering from mouth cancer is sharing her inspiring story of recovery.
Danielle’s arm healing after surgery. (Picture: Jam Press)

“I also speak with a pronounced lisp.

“My tongue will never be normal again. Neither will my ability to eat.”

After her operation, Danielle underwent six weeks of radiation to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.

She said her experience with cancer “changed her” and put her through significant emotional turmoil.

Danielle said: “When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I felt numb.

“I went in full crisis mode and shut off my emotions.

“Dying was not an option.

“I knew I’d get through it – I just had to have the right mindset.

“I told my parents to not break down in front of me. This was war.

“This cancer was not going to get me, and I was going to be loud, irreverent, and painfully honest about it.

“I was always in intense pain in my mouth despite being on a considerable pain management cocktail, but I never faltered unless I was safe at home or with my boyfriend.

“Then I would break down and sob.

“I would say that I was obviously a bad person, that I deserved this, that I must have done something terrible.

“My grief and anger were out of control, and I cried every day—several times a day when I wasn’t in treatment.

“My loved ones were my rock. I have never experienced such drive and stubbornness in my life.

“They supported me by never coddling me but giving me space to emotionally deal with what was happening in a safe environment.”

Now, over a year on, Danielle has finished treatment, other than checkups, and is rebuilding her life.

She said: “I feel like I went through my own personal hell and came out on the other side – changed forever, but a better version of myself.

“I still have physical challenges, but I’m completely off painkillers, and I have resumed my normal life.

“I wish eating was easier, and my speech impediment frustrates me, but I feel like a survivor and I’m damn proud of myself.

“Instead of crumbling, I feel like I gained superpowers – not in a delusional way, but in a self-realization way.

“I finally believed that I could do something huge.

“I could save myself for the first time in my life. And I did.

“I didn’t give up. I didn’t falter.

“And now I’m here today to tell my story.”

Danielle is now passionate about encouraging others to have regular cancer screenings.

Danielle the woman suffering from mouth cancer is sharing her inspiring story of recovery.
Danielle showing her tongue after her surgery. (Picture: Jam Press)

She added: “Every dentist should do cancer screenings.

“If the two dentists I had went to paid attention, I could have started treatment six months before I was actually diagnosed, by that time, the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.

“If your dentist doesn’t do cancer screenings, get a new dentist.

“No one in the world should have to go through what I went through.

“Self-advocate, get second or third opinions, listen to your body and trust your instincts, and if you ever feel like something is wrong – seek out help.

“Very few people even realise that tongue cancer is a real thing.

“Don’t end up like me.”

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