Marie LePage has always loved words and telling stories but after cancer surgery she will have to find a new way to communicate. She is scheduled for an 8-hour glossectomy to remove her tongue. This is the culmination of her 8-year battle with oral cancer.
She has had to sacrifice her mastoid muscle, salivary glands, lymph glands, and a number of teeth as well as part of her jaw. Now she braces for the future as she embarks upon the greatest sacrifice of all which will be the surrender of her words.
LePage loves everything about words. She loves to hear them, to speak them, the power to use them and the joy she gets from collecting him. She works at the Boone County, KY Public Library in children’s programming. She has always loved working there where she can spend time with the kids reading to them great stories.
She is what one would consider a master of words. She is amazing at repartee with her family and loves to read before her congregation as a lector at St. Anthony Catholic Church.
But after Friday she says she can’t be Miss Marie the library story lady. She said she will mourn that. She works hard to speak now after having had over 30 procedures including surgery because of the cancer.
She is fearful because she won’t be able to speak with friends or even strangers; LePage is known for striking up a good conversation with strangers. She says therapy might help her but the doctor can’t be certain. Even with therapy it will be a struggle to communicate and will take great effort to get people to understand her in detail. She said her life will completely change.
Inside she knows that her fears won’t entirely come true because with all that she’s endured already through this cancerous experience she’s also learned some things. She knows that she is more than her power to speak and that even as her body suffers through this transition her spirit can still triumph.
She says an even greater tragedy than not being able to tell people how much they mean to you is having the ability to do so but never opening your mouth to say it.
LePage said with that possibility dominating her thoughts she plans to spend the next five days telling as many people as she can that she loves them. She’s going to make sure she thanks all the people she needs to and will communicate any other measures of love and gratitude necessary.
This 50-year-old mother and wife will also spend time recording special songs and her favorite phrases for Jesse, her husband, and her two daughters, 15-yer-old Kaia and 13-year-old Anna. She plans to read out loud even without an audience.
She will eat and savor her most favorite foods because she may never taste food again. Very few patients who have this same surgery retain the ability to eat. There’s an extremely slim chance that she could ever learn to swallow again and will be forced into a new world with a permanent feeding tube.
Even if she never eats again she will still make sure her family eats. She plans to cook every day.
Since her diagnosis she has become an advocate for the health of herself and of others. She feels no one should have to suffer alone and has become a founding member of an organization called, “Strange Cancer Supper Club.”
LePage hopes that her experience will help others become more aware that no one is promised an unlimited about of time to talk. She hopes people will learn to use their time and words wisely.
She will be out of work for three to six months but once she returns she will no longer be Miss Marie the library story lady but will instead write grants, create programs and plan story times.
She says if she could leave one final thought it would be to celebrate everything and take nothing for granted.
After her surgery on Friday she will have to learn a new way to communicate but plans to find other methods of expressing her voice.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)