Lindsey and I met 20 years ago while working at Sears. We have kept in touch since then and I knew she was the first person I wanted to contact to share her story. Here is her journey in her own words….
“I’m afraid that your original thoughts are correct! “Those were the words that I was hearing nearly four years ago in the Doctors office. My suspicions, although I already knew, were being confirmed. My cancer had returned after being six years cancer free.
In 2008, I was a 26 year old wife, mom of three, and a nurse who had just settled into her career that I knew was my calling. I had always wanted to be a nurse. It was what I had always wanted to do. I loved people and wanted to help them. I wanted to nurture them back to health and be part of their journey. Little did I know that a horrible ear infection and a sore spot on my tongue was God’s way of telling me that cancer was lurking in my body. After a couple of biopsies and scans it was confirmed that I had squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. I ended up having to go through surgery to remove a small portion of my left tongue, a left sided lymph node dissection of the neck to remove nearly 60 lymph nodes, along with chemo and radiation. To be honest, most of that time frame 2008-2009 I don’t remember, but the feeling and emotional connection comes and goes. It all happened so fast, and with the pain medications they had me on for such a radical surgery, in a young lady, with no risk factors for this particular type of cancer, a lot of my memories are foggy in that aspect. Almost like an out of body experience.
Now, fast forward to December 2014, my cancer had returned. What had I done to cause this all to happen? Did I say something wrong, did I eat something I wasn’t suppose to, had I not exercised enough? These were all the thoughts flooding my mind! I was being told that I would be losing 1/3 of my tongue, and it would be reconstructed from my left forearm. I would have a tracheostomy, and a feeding tube. They were not sure if I would be able to speak, swallow, or breathe normally on my own after everything. I didn’t have a lot of photos nor did I do any jotting down of my story back in 2008. So with this news of my cancer returning, I knew that I had to capture every waking moment that I could of the events that were about to happen.
It was something that no matter how hard I tried not to, God was sending me little confirmations saying, NOPE!! Not happening!! You’re not backing out of this! I’ve called you to this journey and I will be with you til my perfect work is complete! Ok God!! I hear ya loud and clear! (I probably should add that at that point in my life I had been praying and seeking God more then I ever had in my life. Days on days I was humbled to my face and knees in tears, weeping in prayer to God!) In January of 2015, I underwent an 18 hour surgery that resulted in removing my whole oral tongue, my left jaw, my lower left teeth, the reconstruction of a new tongue from my left forearm, and a right sided lymph node dissection. Once I was alert enough and had my senses about myself I was in ICU. I couldn’t speak, I was swollen like a blowfish, my whole left arm was completely wrapped and I could not move it! I spent near five days in ICU and then a total of two weeks in the hospital. Throughout this time frame, I also went through chemo and radiation again. That within itself brought forth new problems. The massive amounts of radiation caused the new graft that had been taken from my left forearm/radial bone to crumble and introduced several infections and eventually lead to the whole incision site on my face to opening up.
In August of 2015, I underwent another radical surgery to my head and neck area to reconstruct the failing graft. They removed bone and skin from my right fibula to reconstruct my jaw. This once again introduced more infections. I was still on a feeding tube and receiving nearly 85-90% of my nutrition that way. I was learning to speak again. I was slowly re-teaching myself how to swallow. I remember trying a cup of applesauce for the first time. What a normal person could have consumed in probably less then five minutes, it took me nearly forty five mins, but let me tell you, it was so worth it!! It wasn’t a cheeseburger but it was somewhat of a mechanical soft snack that I could eat! To God be the glory!! God definitely was showing me that he was in control and that everything was in his timing. I was starting to heal up rather nicely, until another setback occurred. I had another area on my face to open up. Radiation!! It’s the gift that keeps on giving once you’ve had to go through it! It’s side effects are horrible. At this point, I was getting settled into my new life with all of the major changes and I felt like I was back to square one. In November 2018, I underwent what I pray and hope is my last surgery pertaining to this whole cancer and reconstruction. My Doctor was able to go in and remove 95% of the titanium plate in my jaw area and close it all up.
As of today, I am able to say that I am celebrating four years of being cancer free the second time around.I don’t really look the same, I have scars all over my body. I don’t sound like I use to when I speak, I eat my foods differently now. I wouldn’t trade a single thing though. This cancer journey the last 10 years or so has introduced so many people to me. God has made a way to show me and everyone else that it’s his power, mercy, and grace as to why I am still alive and a new creation in Christ. People often say that I am a strong, courageous fighter! Although, I am strong willed I have and always will give credit to the Lord Jesus Christ! All those days I spent praying to God to use me for his will to lead others to him….. those prayers were answered!
You can read more about Lindsey’s story on her Facebook page -Team Lindsey Siler