FOX 2 - In 2016, Valerie Page of Dearborn would make a big career move. After decades in the dental profession - she decided to open her own cosmetic teeth whitening spa.
But around the same time - something else life-changing happened.
"I was upset, scared of course you hear cancer you think it is the end of the world," she said. "I constantly had a ringing in my ear, all day - all night. (I had) a lot of problems, but I never expected to hear ‘sinus cancer.’"
The sinus infections Valerie thought she had been battling for nearly three years, were actually symptoms of sinus cancer.
She had a polyp removed that had been blocking her nasal passage, and tests revealed it was a cancerous tumor.
A second opinion brought her to the Karmanos Cancer Institute, where Dr. Adam Folbe specializes in head and neck surgeries.
"It's curable if it is caught early," said Dr. Adam Folbe. "Things to look for, are like, when one nasal cavity is blocked more than the other. So nasal congestion that is unilateral or one-sided, nose bleeds, numbness in your cheeks - that could be a sign of cancer. Or it could be a change in vision, and loss in smell and taste."
The problem is that other symptoms mirror allergies, the common cold, and even Covid.
Valerie luckily caught the rare cancer early and had the tumor removed but the cancer came back - this time in the front of her skull. That required a more invasive surgery with radiation and caused some complications.
But five years later, Valerie is able to manage her pain and live a full life with her family - cancer free.
Now she wants to help others and bring awareness to sinus cancer.
Valerie is starting the nonprofit 'Unseen Warriors of Head and Neck Cancer.' She says she is putting part of her profits from her Advanced Smile lab to also provide resources to those suffering from this rare head and neck cancer.
"So this is very important, because if she makes people aware of these specific symptoms – then they can start thinking, 'It's been more than a month, I am going to stop going to urgent care and taking antibiotics, I am going to a specialist to diagnose this,'" said Dr. Folbe.
"Maybe you can save someone’s life," she said. "Because it can be a very aggressive cancer - thank God mine wasn’t."
We are told that two in 200,000 people are diagnosed with sinus cancer.