“WHAT YOU DON’T SEE IS HIDDEN UNDER THE SKIN AND IT MAY BE
MORE IMPORTANT THAN PHYSICAL BEAUTY.” Thomas Overbury, circa 1613
As a little girl in Poland, Anna Wuszter could not have guessed nor imagined what life had in store for her as a young woman, yet the inconceivable happened. In the years when this beautiful, vibrant new mother should have been enjoying the merriment and amusing diversions of young adulthood, she was instead fighting for her life.
When Anna was 25 years old, she was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of cancer known as sarcoma odontogenes mandibulae. The cancer had originated at the base of a tooth and quickly spread to her salivary glands, tongue and lower jaw. In three short months she was debilitated and in such extreme pain that not even morphine could relieve her suffering. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy finally brought the cancer itself under control but by then Anna had lost half of her face.
During radical surgery her entire lower jaw and part of her tongue had been removed. She could not open her mouth or speak. Doctors at several hospitals in Poland tried valiantly to rebuild her face, knowing it was crucial to her survival to restore her ability to swallow and eat normally. But after 36 failed surgeries and 12 implanted plates to hold her lower face together, she was told there was nothing more that could be done in her homeland.
Anna Wuszter would have to be brave and face a new frontier. After researching all the possible medical treatments that could help “get my face back” she made plans to travel to the United States with her child and her partner. They settled in the Chicago area. Upon arrival in the U.S. she became a patient at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s Department of Plastic Surgery under the care of Dr. Frank A. Papay. Dr. Papay recommended a multi-departmental approach to Anna’s case that would include tissue expansion, a technique that uses an inflatable balloon beneath the skin to stretch it and thereby promote dynamic growth of new skin cells. Under his plan she would then undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries, including dental implants and dentures.