Survivors Give Back



I met Natalie when I spoke at a SPOHNC support group at Beth Israel Medical Center. She was preparing for the same surgery I had and was scared, to put it mildly. She had a positive attitude and focussed on recovery. One month after her surgery, she was a featured speaker at the Lehigh Valley Oral Cancer Walk for Awareness. She told me she wants to do whatever she can to help others.

John came to my Off-Broadway show because he was about to undergo a free flap reconstruction of his tongue. After the show, he and his wife both shared tears and hugs. I wrote to John, giving him words of encouragement before his surgery. I also asked him if I could connect him and Natalie, since she had just been through the same cancer with the same doctor. She wrote him this touching email which she said I could share.

Hi John,

My name is Natalie and Eva Grayzel told me about your conversation with her regarding your upcoming surgery with Dr. Jacobson. I just had the same surgery. Here is what it was like for me:

Only being 26, and needing this crazy big surgery was something that I just swallowed and pressed on. I was diagnosed on August 1, 2013, and went to the best of the best, Beth Israel only five days later…I met Dr. Jacobson ONE time before I had scheduled surgery with him. He was so comforting in his explanations and the way he spoke me made me know I was making the right choice. He is also world renowned, a talented doctor and humanitarian.

I had the 1/3 left back part of my oral tongue removed, reconstructed with the skin graft and main artery removed from my left arm, and a skin graft from my leg to make new skin on my left wrist. I also had a tattoo on my left wrist, where they took the skin from to make my new part of my tongue, and Dr. Jacobson made that my new part of my tongue– so yes, I have a tattoo there, ask him! It is a first for him! 🙂

So, I wanted to reach out to you to tell you, you’re going to be okay. Of course I was a little nervous going there at 5:30 am on September 4, I cried the whole 45 minute ride with my parents into the city. As soon as I saw Dr. Jacobson, I was reminded of his calm aura and it put me right at ease.

You should know that you are in the best of hands and he will do anything and everything possible to ensure for a smooth and beautiful recovery. I am 53 days post-op and am back to work, walking my 5 miles a day as I did before surgery, and eating anything that I had missed before surgery and longed for when I was in the hospital. My parents and I laugh and say that I have come full circle in life because I am re-reading my Dr. Seuss books out loud to them every night to practice speech therapy at home, and I only see the speech therapist at Beth Israel once a month.

Please feel free to call, email, or ask me any questions that you might have before or after surgery. I would be more than willing to help in any way that I can. I know that there are so many different things going through your head but the one thing to remember is TO BE POSITIVE. It really is key in every aspect of life and will help you to remember that you are going to be okay and thankful for a second chance at life– well, at least I am.

God Bless you, I will pray for you, and I wish you the best of luck!!!


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Comments 1

  1. Question to Both Natalie and Eva :

    Do you have any tips or suggestions for us who suffer from dry mouth due to radiation.
    It is the only thing That really keeps me from feeling 100%
    I am 5 months past radiation.

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