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When oral surgeon Dr. Jane Daly called Gary Stasulli in the evening, he knew it wasn’t good. A small area on his lower gum had been swollen for about three weeks before Dr. Daly performed a routine biopsy. After waiting another two weeks to hear the results, he was shocked to learn it was cancer. Dr. Daly recommended him to see Dr. Robert Ord and Dr. Donita Dyalram at UMOMSA.
Oral cancer is normally associated with heavy smoking, alcohol drinking, and the HPV virus, none of which applied to Stasulli. “You hear about people getting cancer all the time, but I never thought I would ever have cancer. I have lived a pretty healthy life and I’m in good shape,” he said. Stasulli is father of three daughters and has led a career in the construction industry working as a union glazier.
Within 2 months, he was scheduled for surgery to remove the mass. The procedure consisted of cutting out the cancerous jaw bone and replacing it with bone from his leg. “You can’t even tell where they cut me,” Stasulli said with pride. All that is left of Dr. Dyalram’s incision is a natural-looking crease that runs under his ear and jaw.
He spent eight days recovering in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). “The jaw never bothered me that much. The hardest part was getting back to walking normally.” During his second or third day in the ICU, all the nurses were clapping for him as he took his first steps after surgery. He was even climbing stairs. “Not many people are walking on this floor,” the nurses had told him. Once home, a cane helped him move around for about three months and prescription medications managed his pain.
Stasulli and his family were elated when the doctors at UMOMSA called to inform them that the cancer was a stage I gingiva cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) and the Cancer Board voted that he would not need chemotherapy or radiation. Three weeks after his surgery, he was on a plane to South Florida to see his granddaughter make her First Communion.
In less than a year his life in Bowie, MD, with his wife Roxanne is back to normal. Now he is in the process of receiving implants to replace the teeth that were lost. He and his wife smile wide when they greet the doctors and staff at UMOMSA. They have faith that the team is ready to take care of whatever he needs next.
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