As a young, poor Filipino woman, 35 year old Mary Jane Galon knew she was in trouble, as a lump on her jaw began growing at an alarming rate. The cancerous growth was not there in 2013, but by the end of 2014, it had already completely overtaken more than half of her mouth.
As it grew, and she became more disfigured, Mary Jane became too ashamed to be seen in public. She withdrew into her home and lived with the pain, the shame, and the worry.
“Before, I am always hiding, I am always in my home, I did not want to go outside.”
Pregnant with her first baby, she was also afraid that the tumour would prove fatal, and she wouldn’t see her infant daughter Nicole, grow up.
Luckily for Mary Jane, the Children First Foundation heard about her plight, and organised to bring the new Mum to St Vincent’s for life-saving surgery. Saving Mary Jane would secure Nicole’s future. St Vincent’s is covering the cost of her surgery – in part from its ‘Good Samaritan Fund’, into which staff donate money from each pay, to help patients.
Although the tumour was benign, doctors were afraid it would soon stop Mary Jane from eating and breathing. Professor Wayne Morrison led the surgical team.
“Well the tumour was massive when we were first confronted, and apparently it had been rapidly growing. It wasn’t far off actually obstructing the airway and preventing her breathing,” he said.
The delicate operation took 14 hours, and involved a team of 16 experts at St Vincent’s public hospital in Melbourne. Three surgical teams, including anaesthetics, head and neck specialists and micro surgeons worked on Mary Jane at the same time.
The tumour removal took just 2 hours – the rest was the delicate reconstruction work. The surgeons removed the thin bone from the lower leg, the fibula, and reshaped it to make a replacement jaw. They transplanted veins and arteries from her leg and arm to ensure the blood flow resumed in her newly reconstructed face.
The head and neck team also had to do a tracheostomy so that Mary Jane could breathe, knowing that her face and neck would be quite swollen after the surgery. Just a few weeks after her surgery, Mary Jane’s recovery is amazing.
“On all front we’re very pleased. Mary Jane is certainly very pleased, and visually, it’s pretty spectacular I have to say, compared to what we started with,” said Professor Morrison.
Mary Jane has shown a photo of herself to her family in the Philippines, and they are thrilled.
“My mother cry, my father cry, and then I hear the voice of my daughter, and I cry, because I miss my daughter! My future now, I can see that there is a light in my future now. Whereas before I am always thinking that I am in the dark, always hiding. I didn’t want to go out. But my mother always told me don’t close hope, maybe God will help. Now I see hope. Now I’m happy.”