A bout with cancer left this woman without a tongue - until she got a new one made from her leg.
Surgeons took skin and muscle from the woman's thigh to re-create the part of her tongue lost to her rare infection of squamous cell carcinoma.
Cameron Newsom, 42, had half her tongue removed in an effort to fight cancer after dealing with excruciating pain post-diagnosis in 2013.
"At the time of my diagnosis, I'd lost over seven pounds because I was unable to eat or drink," Newsom, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Newsflare. "I was 33 at the time and in very good shape, so I could not understand why this was happening to me."
It all started after she noticed white spots on her tongue and her dentist recommended a biopsy for the painless spot.
Despite coming back negative for cancer, she developed another spot a year later. But, again, the results were negative.
Then, the pain began.
Her tongue became sore and extremely sensitive, which made eating, drinking and talking a nightmare. While her dentists prescribed antibiotics, the symptoms worsened.
Eventually, her pink-colored tongue tumors were diagnosed by an ear, nose and throat specialist, who essentially handed her a "death sentence."
She had stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma.
"Straight away my reaction was: I'm ready to fight this," she said, even though she had "never been so scared."
But the treatment - three rounds of chemo - proved to be grueling.
"There would be times at the dinner table where I would just burst into tears because I could not eat a thing," she said. “[My son] Hudson, who was 5 at the time, did not know why I was always so upset and it got to the point where I could not physically speak to him or my husband. ”
The “low point” for her was not being able to spend time with her friends, having to leave early. She recalled one time specifically when she came home upset, only to watch clumps of her hair fall out while showering.
Thankfully, Newsom's treatment was not for nothing: She successfully began healing.
But the next step was removing the tumor, which also meant cutting off part of her tongue.
After a nine-and-a-half-hour surgery performed by some of the best oral surgeons based at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the infected portion of her tongue was replaced with skin and muscle from her thigh.
"They usually take skin from your forearm, but I'm only 5-foot-2, so I did not have enough skin on my forearm to replace what I was having removed," she said. "However, I've been an athlete all my life, and there was plenty for them to use from my thigh."
Recovery was not easy for the mother of one, and when she woke up, she had tubes coming from her neck and nose to allow her to eat and breathe. She was also under constant surveillance in the hospital and received an additional nine weeks of radiation and chemo to get rid of the remaining cancer cells.
"The weirdest part of the whole experience was when I felt a rough texture on the thigh part of my tongue - and when I looked in the mirror it had started growing leg hair!"
Now, with her husband, Anthony, 42, and her son, Hudson, 14, she's living cancer-free with her new tongue after re-learning how to speak again.
"I can only taste on the right side of my tongue, which is the real side, and only chew on the right side because the left is attached to my gums," she said. "My manners are terrible because food sometimes just falls out of my mouth, and when food gets stuck underneath my tongue it feels like having a small rock in your shoe."
The odd feeling is something she would describe as similar to "having a dead arm or dead leg," adding that it's "constantly tingly and numb."
But nine years later without regressing, she's still a gymnastics coach and living life just like before.
"2013 was the toughest year of my life and I could not of done it without the support of my amazing Anthony and the rest of my family," she said.