Oral Cancer: Jake Wilson’s Story
Oral cancer has the potential to change the course of your life. For some, however, it’s little more than a roadblock along the journey.
Sitting at a table a few times a week in Lincoln’s Cottonwood Cafe is Jake Wilson. The Cottonwood regular has been through a lot the past few years but has taken it in stride and continued to live abundantly. After noticing some pressure in his mouth, Wilson had scheduled an appointment with Dr. Brad Alderman to see what was going on. The appointment included a routine oral cancer screening. Although Wilson didn’t know it at the time, this simple office visit would drastically change the course of his life.
Three years ago this month, Dr. Brad Alderman discovered a tumor in Wilson’s mouth that would later turn out to be oral cancer. The news would lead to a long process of on and off treatments, a renewed sense of priority, and an even more abundantly-lived life, suitable only for someone like Wilson.
A 62-year-old retired pilot and FAA inspector, Wilson resides in Lincoln with his wife. He is one of the directors of Haiti’s Children’s Hope (HCHO), which provides educational and spiritual support to Haitian communities. Every few months or so, Wilson travels to Haiti to spend time with a community he has helped cultivate. While the news of cancer was devastating, it wouldn’t stop Wilson from serving his communities, both in the US and in Haiti.
In his work with HCHO, Wilson has helped provide education to many in the Haitian community of Morne Barbeau near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. Over the past few years, Wilson has led teams of missionaries who have built a self-sustaining school.
It wasn’t long after founding HCHO that Wilson was diagnosed with oral cancer. While beginning the building project for the school, Wilson wasn’t sure he’d be around to see the finished project.
“You could say I was in pretty bad shape at the time,” says Wilson, recounting a conversating with his friends in Haiti. “I told them ‘I sure hope I’m here [at the end of this project], but I don’t know what’s going to happen.'”
Regardless of the uncertainty of the future, Wilson carried on with the project, and in spite of his chemotherapy and cancer treatment, he’s been able to see the fully-functioning school open. At this time, Wilson has future plans for HCHO, which he hopes to see all the way through.
Oral Cancer Treatment and Living Life Abundantly
During his time in treatment, Wilson developed a slightly unusual relationship with his doctors. During each round of treatment, he worked his way around the specifics for opportunities to travel, say goodbye to old friends, and make his way down to Haiti to work with the community there. At first, his doctors were a little skeptical, though after seeing Wilson’s recovery, they’ve learned to be on board. Wilson says that some of his points of treatment, particularly radiation and chemotherapy, left him in some pretty difficult spots. Despite this, however, Wilson has worked with his doctors to make necessary plans and continue to live a full life.
Now, Wilson’s doctors have said that although he is technically in remission, the disease still exists. He still has some treatment left to go through but has seen both sides of the coin. Wilson also shared that he stops to smell the flowers more often now. He says it’s just a regular part of his days.
Stay in Contact with Your Dentist
There’s a lot to be learned from Jake Wilson’s story about living life and looking forward. It also serves as an important reminder; If you’re feeling discomfort in your mouth, don’t wait to have it checked out. While it isn’t oral cancer in most cases, catching any problems early on is preferable to finding it when it’s too late. Keep up with regular dental cleanings and other treatments, and if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to give us a call! Remember: that simple phone call could be the one that saves your life.