When I wrote my first bookmark about organizing support networks, my idea was to develop an organization called The Red Balloon Group. It was named for the scar on my arm. Soon, I learned that everyone who had reconstruction of the tongue from oral cancer had a similar scar. Apparently, the forearm skin is most similar to the tongue tissue. An artery is taken to feed blood to the graft site on the tongue where it was reconstructed.
I hope that wasn’t TMI. I’m simply amazed at what head & neck surgeons can do these days! Actually, my surgery was done 14 years ago, and I’m continually grateful for the expertise of my surgeon in New York City, Dr. Mark Urken. There will always be a place in my heart for him. Almost like a parent. He birthed me a second life, and I will always love him.
The day before I was discharged from the hospital, I got a glimpse of my arm as the bandage was removed. I quickly turned my eyes away, shocked at what I saw. I turned my eyes back and said to myself ‘I will grab hold of my red balloon because it can only take me upwards, the only direction I can go from where I’ve been.’
Here I am (my arm is on the right) along with two sister survivors I met today at the David Nasto Oral Cancer Awareness Walk in Andover NJ.