The Daily Mail is carrying the heartrending story of Donnie Fritts, 55, a retired carpenter who, in 2003, was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. His doctors told him that he would have to make an agonizing choice – his face or his life.
This type of cancer is so rare, there have only ever been 26 recorded cases in the whole world.
He decided to go ahead with surgery, but the removal of the ameloblastic carcinoma left him with a huge hole in his face. He had no nose, upper lip, palate, or part of his forehead.
He had to suffer from the reactions of people to his appearance for eight years. It was only in 2011 that surgeons were able to construct a prosthesis to cover the hole.
It was in 2002 that Mr Fritts first felt unusual pains in his teeth. He visited a dentist who referred him to a doctor. The doctor thought it was a simple sinus infection, and prescribed antibiotics.
The pain continued to get worse and his teeth felt looser every day. Amazingly, he saw a further 14 doctors, each of whom gave the same diagnosis. Eventually he decided to see a specialist who, hopefully, would get to the bottom of the problem.
He did, but the news was horrifying. Donnie was told that he had an aggressive form of cancer and, if he didn’t have a large portion of his face removed, he would certainly die a terrible, painful death.
His wife said: “The doctor told us most of the face would have to go. The cancer has gone right into the bone.” He added “We may need to take the nose, the mouth, teeth, and both the eyes too.”
Of course Fritts was in a state of total shock, but he had very little time to make his decision.
I hit rock bottom. I was only 49 but I would never properly kiss my wife again. I’d never chew another meal, may not be able to talk, sing, work, or even see.
I wasn’t sure if life after surgery would even be worth living. I thought about just letting the cancer kill me.
But I knew Sharon wouldn’t allow it. And I couldn’t leave her on her own. I knew I had to do what I could to survive this.
In August 2003, Mr. Fritts underwent a 12-hour operation. His chances of survival were put at no higher than two percent. He did survive, but when he awoke and glimpsed his reflection he saw that he looked hideous.
Over the next six years, Fritts had another 35 operations to stabilize his face. In public he used a mask to hide the hole. Sometimes, people would shout ‘freak’ when they passed him in the street.
Mrs Fritts said: “Donnie is an amazing man. He’s so funny and has kept his sense of humor throughout all of this. No matter what, I will always love him.”
Mr Fritts refers to his wife as “the best wife in the whole world” and adds, “I just keep on going because we can’t quit. We’ve got to fight for what we want.”
images: daily mail