Lynn Schoepske - Patient Story

"I feel very fortunate that my cancer was caught early - and that I was treated at Fox Chase."
‐Lynn Schoepske

I’ve been brushing my teeth twice a day religiously for 80 years—well, maybe 79. I never smoked or chewed tobacco. So, I was surprised when I noticed several of my teeth were loose. I went from my dentist to a periodontist to an oral surgeon, who told me, “Your gums look angry.”

To find out why, I underwent a biopsy right before my family’s annual ski trip to New Hampshire with my wife Carol, our four children, and 11 grandchildren. We look forward to ski trips with our family all year and had a blast. After we returned to our home in New Jersey, my oral surgeon called with the results. The biopsy was positive for cancerous lesions in my mandible, or jaw bone.

With that news, I decided it was time to head to Fox Chase Cancer Center in nearby Philadelphia, where I met John “Drew” Ridge, MD, PhD, FACS, a surgical oncologist with expertise in treating patients with complex head and neck cancers.

We enjoyed Dr. Ridge so much. After he told me I had mandible cancer in my lower gum area, he explained all of my treatment options. A lengthy surgery was scheduled, in which Dr. Ridge removed the front of my lower jaw and the nodes from the upper part of my neck on each side. Dr. Ridge explained that fortunately, though my tumor did invade bone, no additional treatment with radiation or chemotherapy was recommended. I was able to return to my normal level of activity very quickly.

Following that part of the surgery, Sameer Patel, MD, FACS, a plastic reconstructive surgeon, used tissue from my arm to reconstruct my mouth. He explained that the surgery was a success. Once the cancerous tissue was gone, he rebuilt the bottom part of my mouth, while retaining half of my bottom teeth to preserve limited function of my mouth.

It was amazing—I had no pain, just some numbness. Dr. Patel is terrific. When I learned he played the saxophone in high school, I told him that I’m a retired high school band director and also play the sax. It gave us so much to talk about, and that personal bond was special to me.

Although I can no longer play the saxophone due to the reconstruction, the procedure has never stopped me from enjoying life. I played tennis a month after my surgery. Luckily, I have a one-handed backhand, so I didn’t have to use the arm that is healing from surgery. I’m also back to playing golf now.

I feel very fortunate that my cancer was caught early—and that I was treated at Fox Chase. I thought the Fox Chase nurses were very efficient. And I couldn’t have asked for better doctors than Dr. Ridge and Dr. Patel.