Cancer eats away half of man's face

He's been given new hope by a reconstructive surgeon.
He's been given new hope by a reconstructive surgeon. Photo credit: Tim McGrath

A man who had half of his face eaten away by cancer has been given new hope by a reconstructive surgeon.

Michigan man Tim McGrath, 38, was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma - a rare form of soft tissue cancer. However he turned down surgery, which led to a massive grapefruit-sized tumour growing on his jaw.

"At the end of May 2015 the tumour doubled in size and I had to have a tracheotomy fitted to enable me to breathe and a feeding tube so I could eat," he says.

He then decided to go under the knife.

"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," he says.

"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."

His body then rejected multiple attempts to rebuild his face, leaving him with a face on exposed flesh.

He left his original surgeon and turned to renowned surgeon Dr Kongkrit Chaiyasate, who used skin from his leg and forearm to reconstruct Mr McGrath's face.

"After the operation to remove the tumour I was heartbroken. I didn't realise that half of my face would be taken away and it wasn't until I went to Dr Chaiyasate that I started to feel real hope again," Mr McGrath says.

"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."