A FEW years ago, when Mount Martha resident Jarrod Massuger was barely into his 30s, an innocent-looking ulcer on his tongue set his life on a dramatically different course.
Now he has an important message for others who ignore persistent health concerns.
While the ulcer healed and Jarrod thought no more of it, two months later it returned, in the same spot, only bigger and causing a radiating pain to his left ear.
“My wife made me see a GP, who referred me to an oral surgeon who concluded that it was “50/50” whether it was something sinister.
“I was a non-smoker, no family history of anything like this, and reasonably fit,” he said. “I thought, this can’t happen to me”.
Scans revealed the squamous cell cancer that had started as a simple togue ulcer was a grade 3 cancer.
“I couldn’t believe it, I dropped the phone when I got the call, and then they said, ‘you need to come in right now, with your wife’,” he said.
“I’m an ex-nurse and paramedic so I knew how serious a phone call like that is, and I just went numb.”
Doctors were forced to cut the cancer out, leaving Massuger with around 50 per cent of his tongue intact.
Now cancer-free, he wants to warn people not to delay getting persistent health concerns checked out, not matter how insignificant they may seem.
“With my cancer, by the time I got to the specialist the tumour was 2.5 centimetres big, and I didn’t even know it was there,” he said.
“The message I want to tell people is don’t wait. I had some stress at work so I put it off, but had I left it any longer it would have spread to my lymph nodes and then it would have been a different story.”
“Now I make the most of every day, I keep really fit at the gym every day, I eat well, and I make sure I am in good physical health because you just never know what’s ahead.
“I feel I’m a better version of myself, I have a better outlook, I feel lucky and things are clearer.”
July 27 is World Head and Neck Cancer Day. Head and Neck Cancer Australia is Australia’s only national charity dedicated to providing education and support to people living with head and neck cancer, caregivers, family and health professionals.
To find out more go to headandneckcancer.org.au