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GetImagePhoto Credit: David Coates/The Detroit NewsMary Ann Jarrett of St. Clair Shores didn’t have a voice for three months and struggled to eat for two. However, after having her tongue sliced in half and her face split open to remove a cancerous tumor, she said the most important thing was she was alive.

"The thought of it was absolutely devastating," Jarrett said. "I was petrified about being disfigured and not being able to eat normally. Those were my two biggest fears other than the fear of not surviving it, but at that point I really wanted to live. If I didn't have surgery I was going to die."

Even more staggering was that while she was battling the rare, slow-growing bone cancer called chondrosarcoma, her husband, Mark, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

“She really saved me,” said Mark Jarrett, 65. “She is such a rock. We both helped each other. It is funny how it all worked out.”

While the tricky procedure to break open Mary Ann Jarrett’s face is not all that unusual, what surgeons also had to do made the 13-hour procedure unique: rebuild her throat by transplanting tissue from her forearm.

“All that tissue in the back of her throat had broken down,” said Dr. Daniel Pieper, director of neuro-oncology at Beaumont. “And repairing that was going to be extremely difficult because of the number of surgeries she had previously and because of the radiation (treatment).”

After extensive therapy and work with a speech pathologist, Jarrett was eating two months after her surgery and speaking after three. Jarrett said she gradually regained her ability to swallow by taking sips of water and juice and then nibbles of Jello, melted popsicles and yogurt.

“It turned out great. I didn’t have any complications,” she said. “They expected that the recovery time would be much longer.”


To read the full story from Detroit News, click here.


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