Randy’s Tongue Rebuilt Using Tissue from His Wrist
It was during an annual check-up with his regular doctor that Randy - a pastor in a Sierra Vista-based church - was stunned by the possibility that a sore spot under his tongue might be cancer. Having never taken part in activities such as drinking or smoking that are considered common causes of mouth cancer, being told he had stage four oral cancer was quite a shock. Just months before Randy was diagnosed, the University of Arizona Medical Center happened to bring on a new team of head and neck cancer surgeons, Drs. Audrey Erman and Thomas Gernon - the only head and neck cancer specialists of their kind in Tucson. Previously, patients like Randy would have had to go outside of Tucson for reconstructive surgery or would have been left disfigured. Using veins and arteries from his wrist, they not only removed the cancer, but rebuilt 50 percent of his tongue that would have been affected and damaged by the removal of cancerous tissue. With a 2.2-centimeter tumor in his tongue and two more in his neck, Randy entered surgery braced for the fact that it would take nearly a year of therapy to fully recover his ability to speak. But because of the reconstruction available to him at University of Arizona Medical Center, he said a labored but quick word to his congregation the weekend after surgery, and preached his first sermon six weeks later.