Henry Ford doctors reconstruct tongue with cancer patient's arm muscle

When June McKie discovered a lump on her tongue, she learned that she had stage two cancer.

"It would just burn. It was like someone had thrown gasoline in the mouth and set it on fire," she said.

McKie was referred to Dr. Tamer Ghanem at Henry Ford Hospital, who realized the tumor was on her tonsil. Traditional surgery would have been difficult, so he incorporated another method.

"Now we have the ability to use robotic surgery to get back far in the back of the tongue to do cancer removal without splitting the lip, splitting the jaw," he said.

After the tumor and 35% of the tongue were removed, McKie's tongue had to be reconstructed.

Ghanem used muscle and tissue from McKie's arm to fix her tongue.

"It's not mobile tissue like normal tongue tissue, but as you can see June is doing amazing with her speech – she’s very understandable," Ghanem said.

McKie said she is feeling great.

"I feel good, I really do," she said. "I'm at the best of health. I thank God for Dr. Ghanem."

McKie admits that in her teenage years she did smoke but says it’s unclear how she got tongue cancer. Doctors say most patients get this form of cancer from smoking or drinking.

McKie hopes that by sharing her story, others will find it in themselves to fight any medical challenge they’re facing by declaring: "I'm about to beat this."