Rebecca was the first person Vanessa called when she got the shocking news that she had tongue cancer. Just as they shared every birthday celebration, they would share the oral cancer journey with Rebecca and Vanessa’s husband, sharing the caregiver’s responsibility.
Vanessa wanted it replaced if there was a crinkle in a bandage or bandaid. Rebecca ensured her cell phone and TV remote were in line because it was one less thing Vanessa would have to do.
Just as Vanessa was compulsive about how her laundry was folded, she had always checked the white spot on her tongue, which she had noticed five years earlier.
She was employed at a dental practice, and they helped her get the braces she had been wanting since she was a little girl. When she showed the dentist the spot, he said it was absolutely nothing.
When she got pregnant, the spot on her tongue became painful. Once again showed it to her dentist, who said she has no risk factors and it’s nothing to worry about. After a few months, Vanessa went for a second opinion and learned she had advanced-stage oral cancer.
The doctor told her she needed to end her pregnancy and start treatment immediately. She had great benefits and got a second opinion from a doctor who said she could begin chemo, and after three treatments, her child should be induced, but it gave her baby enough time to have a chance.
Her son is now 12. She has been gone for 11 years. Despite the devastating effects of radiation and chemo, her smile spoke volumes about how happy she was to be alive. Even after the tracheotomy, she wanted to travel, go to concerts, and play with her son. After the glossectomy, when her entire tongue was removed, she stopped talking and still loved her life and the people in it. However, when the G-Tube became a J-tube, is when she began to decline noticeably. She always felt hungry. Her quality of life could no longer satiate her zest.
Rebecca describes being twinless this way: “When a person loses their legs, they still feel their legs. My sister was like my legs. I still feel her. She is still a part of me. Now, I must learn to stand on my own two feet.”