Monday, April 7, 2008

Amazing Oral Cancer Survivor Touches Lives, Raises Awareness

**Photo courtesy of Katie Rausch, The Flint Journal

There's a favorite quote of mine that says people pass in and out of your life for a reason, and however long or short they stay, they were meant to make an impact. An amazing and spunky 73-year-old woman from Grand Blanc is someone who's been in my life for a short period of time, but has quickly nudged her way into my heart.

Rather than me going into detail on Beverly Dillon's story, I'd prefer you read it from this
Flint Journal article. I've worked with Bev for about a year now to raise awareness of oral cancer on behalf of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Bev willingly offers her time to help spread the word about oral cancer because she's all too familiar with the disease. Reading her story will undoubtedly touch you, but there's nothing like hearing it firsthand from her.

Bev has a bit of a lisp. It's barely detectable, but it's a constant reminder of the pain and suffering she endured. Yet you won't find her being silent. Bev tells her story to anyone who will listen -- and once she starts talking, she immediately draws you in. Her story is so compelling and heartfelt, that you literally feel the pain that enveloped her during the more than 30 doctor and dentist trips it took before the light finally turned on in someone's head and her oral cancer was discovered.

That's the sad part about oral cancer -- it's often discovered in its later stages. Now more than ever, women and younger people are being affected by oral cancer. Oral cancer previously affected men over the age of 40, African Americans, smokers and heavy alcohol drinkers. To put the icing on the cake, now oral cancer is found to be associated with HPV. And still, many people don't know about it. Read this for more information about oral cancer, as well as information about a test that can detect oral cancer while it's still in its early stages.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, about 34,000 people will be affected by the disease this year, and approximately 8,000 will die. Today marks the beginning of National Oral Cancer Awareness Week (April 7-13), so now is a perfect time to become a little more familiar with the disease.

I hope I have the opportunity to work with Bev for many years to come. Every time I hear her tell her story, I learn something new. But the one thing she ALWAYS stresses is that in some ways, oral cancer was a blessing because it made her value life more than she ever had. Bev is always on-the-go, whether it's painting at art class, spending time with her grandchildren or meeting friends for breakfast. She's constantly interacting with people and enjoying life -- all the while finding new hearts to touch and new eyes to open. Bev is determined to raise awareness about oral cancer, and if more people like her start working to spread the awareness, then oral cancer will one day become as recognized and understood as breast cancer.

Next stop on the Beverly Dillon train -- Oprah (we hope!)

If I had my pick of one piece of advice that you can take from this post and from Beverly's story, then it would be this: Request an oral cancer exam from your dentist during every dental checkup.


metrogal84 said...

Wow, great post. Bev really is a real-life hero! You are blessed for having met a strong woman like her -- she teaches us all not to take anything for granted.

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