Summary: Jennifer Grogan was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tounge in June, 1994 when she was only 21. Her physician referred her to Dr. Robert Ord, the Department Chair of Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a professor at the University of Maryland Dental School. She had her first of three partial glossectomies (surgical removal of a portion of the tounge) on July 14, 1994. Although she was apprehensive about the first surgery, Grogan says the next two surgeries in 1998 and 2007 were not so scary because “I knew I was being cared for by the best. I thank Dr. Ord for being so diligent in my care, I don’t know if I would have been able to trust anyone else the way I have with him.”
What was your disease/condition?
Squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.
When/how were you diagnosed?
On Thanksgiving, 1993, I found what I thought to be an ulcer (I often had them as a kid). It was white and flat, about the diameter of a pencil eraser, and it would sting every once in a while. In June of 1994, it was still there so I saw my primary care physician and he referred me to see an otolaryngologist, who performed a biopsy. The otolaryngologist called me when the results were in and wanted me to come in to discuss the findings, and requested I bring someone with me. I showed up with my 1-year- old son and my mom.
He asked if it would be okay to have him stay at the front desk with the receptionist while we discussed the results. He told me I had cancer and I was kind of taken aback. At the age of 21, I was not really sure what I was dealing with. I asked, "What now?" He referred me to Dr. Robert Ord at the University of Maryland.
What led up to your decision to have surgery?
Dr. Ord explained what was needed for my care and treatment and he made me comfortable in my decision.
When did you have your surgery?
On July 14, 1994 to the middle left section of my tongue. I had surgery again in 1998 on the back left side, and my last surgery was January 2007 -- carcinoma in situ (an early form of cancer) towards the front left side of my tongue.
What was your recovery like?
The first surgery was difficult for me. I was very scared waking up in the recovery room and it took a few weeks to gain my speech back. My mom and dad took care of my son for the first few days afterwards. I had been sustaining on Cream of Wheat, mashed potatoes and Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink. I finally had solid food about two weeks after surgery.
The second two surgeries were not so scary because I knew I was being cared for by the best. I had the second surgery in 1998. I knew from the previous surgery what to expect, but it was hard for me to swallow. The incision area was further back. For a while, I spoke as if I had my tongue pierced.
Did you have additional treatments/therapies after surgery?
After the first surgery, I had gone through a year of an experimental drug called All Trans Retinoic Acid but no radiation or chemotherapy for any of the surgeries. Dr. Ord didn't think it was in my best interest because I was so young.
How did you feel about the care you received while in the hospital?
The staff members were so caring and understanding. My pain and recovery were managed very well. They were attentive to my needs and worked well with each other.
How has your life changed since surgery?
I take each day with a blessing that it wasn't worse than it could have been and I'd like to think it has been because of Dr. Ord and his team of medical professionals.
What is your opinion of Dr. Ord?
I absolutely adore him. He has a big heart. When my insurance was going to change and I wouldn't have been able to see him, he made it work. When I married in 2000, the military took care of me. But once my husband got out in 2003, I returned to Dr. Ord in a heartbeat. Having the knowledge and experience I had with him, I wouldn't put my care in anyone else’s hands.
Would you recommend UMMC and Dr. Ord to others?
Most definitely and I have! Those that I have met along the way with the same cancer were already going to him! With UMMC, there is a terrific surgeon and educator, great staff at the office and hospital, and just caring people all the way around.