After Cancer Surgery Left Her Without Teeth For Years, Bobbie Is Smiling Again
Our team of specialists collaborate to help patients with oral cancer get back to normal life
In October 2013 Bobbie (Bobbett) Lucier had a sore in her mouth that she figured was just a canker sore. The sore did not go away after taking mouth-wash medication, prescribed from a dentist. Her dentist referred Bobbie to a periodontist who performed a biopsy on the sore. The biopsy confirmed the worst: Bobbie had cancer.
Bobbie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, otherwise known as oral cancer that had wrapped around her lower teeth. This diagnosis was surprising to both her and her doctor because she never smoked and rarely drank alcohol, which are contributing risk factors for this type of cancer.
Bobbie was referred to Steven Chang, M.D., the Director of the Head and Neck Cancer program at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute.
Dr. Chang performed surgery to remove the cancer and surrounding area. He was able to avoid removing a large segment of her jaw bone and avoid neck surgery as well - but unfortunately he had to remove most of her bottom teeth in the process. Due to the fact that Dr. Chang was able to avoid a complex operation, Bobbie recovered real well, but she was unable to eat solid food.
Bobbie was referred to a prosthodontist to fit her for new teeth. Bobbie went through dental rehabilitation after cancer treatment. This was a long process, but after three and a half years, Bobbie looked in the mirror for the first time with her new teeth. “It was amazing to see teeth again where there had once been a hole,” she said.
A Team of Specialized Experts
The Henry Ford Head and Neck Cancer Program offers a team-approach to treating patients, like Bobbie, and helping those with oral cancer get back to normal life.
Bobbie was fortunate to have tucked away savings to afford the expensive implants. She has an inspiring story about her first bite of solid food after years of eating pureed meals. Her first bite of solid food was a hot dog at a baseball game. She tears up as she tells the story and explains the emotions she had after receiving the implants.
Bobbie’s story has a happy ending thanks to the full team of specialists she had at Henry Ford and the amazing care she received from her prosthodontist. Her cancer team consisted of a speech language pathologist, a nutritionist and a health psychologist, in addition to Dr. Chang.
“Dr. Chang is wonderful,” she said. “He just cares. It was the first appointment I had with him and I am a hugging type of person and I gave him a hug. Every time I meet with him I always give him a hug.”
Bobbie’s advice to others? “Include your family and friends in the journey,” she says. I always took one or two people with me to my appointments. It is really good to have other people involved. Let your friends and family take care of you, clean for you, shop for you, cook for you and pray for you. People do not know what to do and they want to help – let them!”