This Man Lost Half His Face To Cancer, But Had It Rebuilt With Skin From His Arms And Legs
The pioneering surgery has given him a new lease on life. Warning: This article contains images some may find disturbing.
Tim McGrath is a 38-year-old from Michigan. In 2014, he was experiencing terrible pain in his jaw. When he couldn't bear it any longer, he went to have it checked out. Doctors told him the pain was actually from a growing tumor, which was diagnosed as synovial sarcoma.
According to the National Institutes of Health, synovial sarcoma is a rare and aggressive form of soft-tissue cancer. There are usually no signs or symptoms at first, but over time a tumor can rapidly form and expand, damaging the body systems around it.
Eventually, the tumor grew to the size of a softball on the left side of McGrath's face. He looked into nonsurgical alternatives, but after 18 months he opted to have the tumor removed. The surgery took 30 hours to perform, and he was in the hospital for seven weeks recovering.
This left McGrath in an agonizing state. “Eventually I was discharged and the cavity was closed but over time the transplant kept shrinking and I experienced numerous infections," he told Huffington Post UK. "There were so many times when I wanted to give up and at times it was difficult to find the strength to carry on.”
After dealing with numerous complications, McGrath decided to take another route. He eventually sought the help of Michigan plastic surgeon Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate.
Chaiyasate opted to use skin from McGrath's leg, forearm, and forehead to rebuild his face.
McGrath took well to the new surgeries and recovery. He told HuffPo UK that he is thankful for Chaiyasate, and that the results have made him optimistic. “He has given me so much hope. I’ve had over 20 surgeries to date and five of those have been with Dr C, none of which have been rejected."
McGrath is staying optimistic about his future, and now runs a website called Tough Like Tim, which documents his life and offers hope and inspiration to others.
He acknowledges that his journey has been tough, and continues to express how grateful he is.
"My journey has been long and mostly inconceivable to most, but I have an amazing support group around me and I draw strength from them daily," he told HuffPo UK. "I have been through something horrific, but if what I’ve gone through can inspire people to live their lives with gratitude for the things they take for granted then it makes what I’ve gone through all worth it."
BuzzFeed has reached out to McGrath for comment.