A man left with half a face after his features were ravaged by aggressive cancer has undergone a life-changing op.
Tim McGrath, 38, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma — an extremely rare form of soft tissue cancer.
It caused a huge, grapefruit-sized tumor to grow on his jaw.
Medics managed to cut out the cancerous mass, but his body rejected multiple attempts to rebuild it.
Now, after a year of living with exposed flesh, top surgeon Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyaste heard about McGrath’s plight and agreed to help.
Using skin from his leg and forearm he performed an incredible op to begin rebuilding the features on the left side of McGrath’s face.
McGrath, an avid golfer, said the reconstruction work on his face is expected to continue into next year.
McGrath, from Michigan, said: “After the operation to remove the tumor I was heartbroken, I didn’t realize that half of my face would be taken away and it wasn’t until I went to Dr. Chaiyasate that I start to feel real hope again.”
“I was covered in scars from previous surgeries which limited my options for reconstruction but we went ahead and the outcome has been incredible.”
“He reconstructed my face using skin and muscle from my left leg, left forearm, and a flap from my forehead and skin graphs were used to help the healing process.”
“I currently can’t drink liquid, eat through my mouth, or pronounce certain words, however, my quality of life has improved massively.”
“There are people who stare at me, mostly children who don’t understand, but I would hope that others look past what they can see.”
“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.”
“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.”
McGrath was first diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft-tissue cancer, in February 2014 after complaining of severe jaw pain.
An MRI revealed an egg-sized tumor, however, McGrath turned down surgery and spent the following 18 months seeking non-surgical alternatives.
Unfortunately, synovial sarcoma is resistant to many things, including chemotherapy, and the tumor continued to grow.
He added: “At the end of May 2015 the tumor doubled in size and I had to have a tracheotomy fitted to enable me to breathe and a feeding tube so I could eat because the tumor had invaded the space in my mouth.”
“Heavy doses of radiation caused the tumor to start dying and shrink and parts started to fall off, eventually I got my mouth back and I could eat very thin pieces of food.”
“After the tumor shrank and the radiation treatment was over I had to wait a few weeks before they could remove the remaining mass.”
In October 2015, McGrath was admitted to the hospital where he stayed for almost seven weeks following the initial 30-hour operation to remove and then reconstruct his face.
McGrath said: “Before the surgery they gave me the worst case scenario, they said I would have to lose my left eye and my left ear, but I didn’t believe that was going to be necessary.”
“When I woke up I was in complete shock, as well as removing part of my face and bone structure, they had removed most of the muscle in my back, they had taken a rib, and they took part of my scapula and part of my shoulder too.”
“This was so that they could rebuild my bone structure and the surrounding area, however, my body rejected the first attempts.”
“Eventually I was discharged and the cavity was closed but over time the transplant kept shrinking and I experienced numerous infections.”
“There were so many times when I wanted to give up and at times it was difficult to find the strength to carry on.”
During his long journey towards recovery McGrath made the bold decision to leave his original surgeon and was welcomed with open arms by Chaiyasate – who he heard about through a friend — in April 2016.
“Dr. C is a humanitarian, who dedicates his life towards giving and helping others, he is humble and has an amazing sense of humor, I consider him a great friend.”
“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.”
“Dr. C now wants me to have a year off to relax and gain my strength back, let the swelling go down and just have fun in life.”
“I am definitely taking advantage of every opportunity I have to live.”
Chaiyasate will continue with the reconstruction of McGrath’s face next winter which will further help his speech and will give him the ability to eat and drink again.
McGrath said: “My family and friends have been amazing and their fundraisers have helped me afford and endure the $40,000 to 50,000 that has had to come out of pocket.”
“I have been incredibly lucky to have insurance, the first eight weeks in hospital rang up a bill of $1.2 million alone.”
“I have now found the confidence to share my story, and if my journey can lead to a happy life for others around me then I truly understand why I was chosen to walk this path.”