Woman Drops 500 Pounds After Doctors Remove Tongue Due to Stage 4 Oral Cancer

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Jen Costa says she’s always been on the chubbier side. Despite being a bit bigger than the other kids her age, she was still mobile — until an accident left her sedentary at the age of 19.

The Long Island native told the New York Post that a bus hit her, snapping her knee ligaments and forcing her to stay off her feet for a year. That would be a heavy blow for anyone, and during that time Costa ended up making some unhealthy choices.

“I used to be addicted to food,” she admitted. “I abused the privilege to eat. After the car accident, I was completely bed-bound and ordered a takeaway every single day.”

From there, her weight ballooned. She got to the point where she could no longer wash herself. She also turned to drugs during her depression, and by 2015 was experiencing terrible mouth pain.

“I was given medication after medication and nothing was working,” she said. “It was getting difficult to eat and even speak. I don’t think I was saying more than a few dozen words a day, that wasn’t much of a life.”

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Costa also noticed a white bump on her tongue. According to a Facebook post from 2018, she went to her primary care doctor, a dentist, an oral surgeon and two ear, nose and throat specialists — one of whom told her she was too young to get cancer.

But finally, she went to a different doctor, and after a brief examination he gave her the horrible news: “I’m sorry to tell you this but that’s definitely cancer.”

The disease had spread to her lymph nodes, and she was told her cancer was aggressive and “beyond stage 4.” The only real treatment option Costa had was to have her tongue removed and reconstructed with skin from her arm and rely on a trach tube and feeding tube for the rest of her life. She’d have a useless, motionless tongue, but that was far better than a diseased one.

Only one group was willing to take on her case: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In 2016, Costa underwent the 19-hour surgery, and even then the doctors told her she has a 30 percent chance of making it past five years.

The strict diet of shakes that Costa was on since she needed to eat through a tube has helped her lose weight — 500 pounds in total. The prospect of life without taste was bleak for Costa.

“I was completely numb,” she told the Post. “I felt my life was over — even if I defied the odds and survived, it wasn’t a way to live. To be honest, I don’t know how I survived it.”

Recovery wasn’t easy. Costa said that she was told she’d never breathe through her nose again, and that one day tissue blocked her trach tube and she lost consciousness and her heart stopped beating. Medical professionals brought her back three times before she stabilized again, according to a Facebook post of her story.

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For two years, Costa has been living clean, and she started “Strongheart Nation,” where she connects with and encourages people going through similar trials.

“For the last two years, Strongheart Nation has been my life,” she said. “I live, I breathe, I sleep this. I get messages from [people] around the planet thanking me for helping them find the strength they needed to get through their situation.”

Now, she calls her cancer and surgery a “blessing in disguise” that helped her get where she is now. “I kind of had to have this happen to me to have this awakening,” Costa explained.

Not only has she lost more than 500 pounds, but she says she also is able to breathe on her own, taught herself to drink and no longer needs the feeding tube.

“In my darkest days I finally saw the light of GOD, and found my true purpose… I was reborn,” she posted in 2018. “I had to die a little in order to learn to appreciate how it felt to truly live… and I’m ALIVE for the very first time in my life.. GLORY BE TO GOD ALMIGHTY.”

“It’s very surreal to see myself,” she told the Post. “Three years ago, I never would have thought in a million years I’d be where I am today … I’m alive for the very first time in my life.”

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FFADS.lazy_load_check = function() { FFADS.debug( 'checking lazy load' );

let wnhc_j = jQuery( '#wj-network-header-container' + ( window.innerWidth < 944 ? ', .jw-above-container.stuck:not( .never-stick ) .jw-sticky-container' : '' ) ).last(); let wnhc = wnhc_j.length ? wnhc_j.offset().top + wnhc_j.outerHeight() : 0; FFADS.debug( 'WNHC bottom is ' + wnhc ); let slide_units = document.querySelectorAll( '.sponsor > div.fixed-size.sliding > div' ); for( let i = 0; i < slide_units.length; i++ ) { FFADS.debug( 'checking margin for' ); FFADS.debug( slide_units[i] ); if( ! slide_units[i].firstElementChild ) break; this_unit_j = jQuery( slide_units[i] ); let max_margin = slide_units[i].parentElement.offsetHeight - slide_units[i].firstElementChild.offsetHeight; FFADS.debug( 'max margin is ' + max_margin ); let distance = wnhc - this_unit_j.parent().offset().top; if( distance > max_margin ) { slide_units[i].style.position = 'static'; slide_units[i].style.paddingTop = max_margin + 'px'; } else if( distance < 0 ) { slide_units[i].style.position = 'static'; slide_units[i].style.paddingTop = '0px'; } else if( slide_units[i].style.position != 'fixed' ) { slide_units[i].style.left = jQuery( slide_units[i].firstChild ).offset().left + 'px'; slide_units[i].style.position = 'fixed'; slide_units[i].style.paddingTop = '0px'; slide_units[i].style.top = jQuery( '#wpadminbar' ).outerHeight() + jQuery( '#wj-network-header-container' ).outerHeight() + ( window.innerWidth < 944 ? jQuery( '.jw-above-container.stuck:not( .never-stick ) .jw-sticky-container' ).outerHeight() : 0 ) + 'px'; } } for( let i = 0; i < FFADS.content_order.length; i++ ) { let ad_unit_id = FFADS.content_order[i]; let ad_unit = ad_unit_id.split( '_' )[0]; if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].repeating ) { if( checkAlmostVisible( document.getElementById( ad_unit_id ), FFADS.lazy_load_threshold ) ) { FFADS.debug( ad_unit_id + ' is almost visible' ); FFADS.content_order.splice( i, 1 ); // splice first in case render_ad fails FFADS.render_ad( ad_unit, ad_unit_id ); } else break; } else for( var j = 0; j < FF_REP_COUNT; j++ ) { let div_id = 'REP_' + j; if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[div_id].displayed ) { if( checkAlmostVisible( document.getElementById( div_id ), FFADS.lazy_load_threshold ) ) { FFADS.debug( div_id + ' is almost visible' ); if( j == FF_REP_COUNT - 1 ) FFADS.content_order.splice( i, 1 ); // splice first in case render_ad fails FFADS.render_ad( ad_unit, div_id ); } else break; } } } if( typeof ffsid != 'undefined' && ! FFADS.spot_im_displayed && checkAlmostVisible( document.getElementById( 'respond' ), FFADS.lazy_load_threshold ) ) { var ffrespond = document.getElementById( 'respond' ); var simscript1 = document.createElement( 'script' ); var simscript2 = document.createElement( 'script' ); simscript1.async = simscript2.async = 'async'; simscript1.type = simscript2.type = 'text/javascript'; simscript1.src = 'https://recirculation.spot.im/spot/' + ffsid; simscript2.src = 'https://launcher.spot.im/spot/' + ffsid; simscript2.dataset.spotimModule = 'spotim-launcher'; simscript2.dataset.postUrl = simscript2.dataset.facebookUrl = ffsurl; simscript2.dataset.postId = ffspid; ffrespond.appendChild( simscript1 ); ffrespond.appendChild( simscript2 ); FFADS.spot_im_displayed = true; } if( window.innerWidth > 943 ) for( let i = 0; i < FFADS.sidebar_order.length; i++ ) { let ad_unit_code = FFADS.sidebar_order[i]; if( checkAlmostVisible( document.getElementById( ad_unit_code ), FFADS.lazy_load_threshold ) ) { FFADS.debug( ad_unit_code + ' is almost visible' ); FFADS.sidebar_order.splice( i, 1 ); FFADS.render_ad( ad_unit_code ); } else break; } } var pbjs = pbjs || {}; pbjs.que = pbjs.que || [ function() { FFADS.debug( 'pbjs.que starting' ); } ]; pbjs.bidderSettings = { standard: { bidCpmAdjustment: function( bidCpm, bid ) { let screen_size = window.innerWidth < 944 ? 'SMSX' : 'LGSX'; let factor = 1.0; if( typeof FFADS.units[bid.adUnitCode].scales[screen_size][bid.bidderCode] != 'undefined' ){ factor -= FFADS.units[bid.adUnitCode].scales[screen_size][bid.bidderCode]; FFADS.debug( 'factor for ' + bid.bidderCode + ' in ' + bid.adUnitCode + ' set to ' + factor + '; bid changed from ' + bidCpm + ' to ' + ( bidCpm *= factor ) ); } return bidCpm; } } }; pbjs.que.push(function() { pbjs.enableAnalytics( { provider: 'roxot', options: { publisherIds: ["556182c7-ac68-4d56-8c66-4b4336e28e5e"] } } ); pbjs.setConfig( { priceGranularity: "high", userSync: { iframeEnabled: true, filterSettings: { iframe: { bidders: ['openx', 'pubmatic'], filter: 'include' } } } } ); FFADS.debug( 'adding units to PB' ); FFADS.debug( FFADS.pb_units ); pbjs.addAdUnits( FFADS.pb_units ); let adUnitCodes = []; for( let ad_unit in FFADS.units ) if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].lazy_load ) adUnitCodes.push( ad_unit ); FFADS.debug( 'requesting PB bids for initial units' ); pbjs.requestBids({ bidsBackHandler: FFADS.pbjs_bids_back, adUnitCodes: adUnitCodes }); }); function sendInitialAdserverRequest() { if( FFADS.initialAdserverRequestSent ) return; FFADS.initialAdserverRequestSent = true; FFADS.debug( 'queuing DFP request for initial units' ); googletag.cmd.push(function() { pbjs.que.push(function() { FFADS.debug( 'sending DFP request for initial units' ); let adUnitCodes = []; let dfpAdUnits = []; for( let ad_unit in FFADS.units ) if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].lazy_load ) { if( FFADS.units[ad_unit].ad_type == 'hybrid' ) { let pb_bid = pbjs.getHighestCpmBids( ad_unit ); pb_bid = pb_bid.length ? pb_bid[0].cpm : 0; FFADS.debug( 'Prebid bid ' + pb_bid + ' for ' + ad_unit ); if( pb_bid < FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].cpm ) { FFADS.debug( 'Custom code won for ' + ad_unit ); let el = false; if( el = document.getElementById( ad_unit ) ) { el.innerHTML = FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].code; eval( FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].rendering_script ); } else FFADS.debug( 'failed to render custom code in ' + ad_unit + ' since the unit is not on this page' ); continue; } } adUnitCodes.push( ad_unit ); dfpAdUnits.push( FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[ad_unit].gt_slot ); } pbjs.setTargetingForGPTAsync( adUnitCodes ); apstag.setDisplayBids(); googletag.pubads().refresh( dfpAdUnits ); }); }); } FFADS.debug( 'scheduling DFP request for initial units' ); setTimeout( function() { sendInitialAdserverRequest(); }, FFADS.prebid_timeout ); (function () { var gads = document.createElement('script'); gads.async = true; gads.type = 'text/javascript'; var useSSL = 'https:' == document.location.protocol; gads.src = (useSSL ? 'https:' : 'http:') + '//www.googletagservices.com/tag/js/gpt.js'; var node = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; node.parentNode.insertBefore(gads, node); })(); var googletag = googletag || {}; googletag.cmd = googletag.cmd || [ function() { FFADS.debug( 'googletag.cmd starting' ); } ]; googletag.cmd.push( function() { googletag.pubads().disableInitialLoad(); for( let ad_unit in FFADS.units ) if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].lazy_load && ( FFADS.units[ad_unit].ad_type == 'dfp_prebid' || FFADS.units[ad_unit].ad_type == 'hybrid' ) ) { FFADS.debug( 'defining slot for ' + ad_unit + ' #' + ad_unit ); FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[ad_unit].gt_slot = googletag.defineSlot( FFADS.get_unit_path( ad_unit ), FFADS.units[ad_unit].sizes, ad_unit ).addService( googletag.pubads() ); } googletag.pubads().enableSingleRequest(); firefly_setTargeting(); googletag.pubads().setCentering(true); googletag.enableServices(); } ); function sendSingleAdserverRequest( ad_unit, div_id = false ) { div_id = div_id || ad_unit; if( FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[div_id].adserverRequestSent ) return; FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[div_id].adserverRequestSent = true; if( FFADS.units[ad_unit].ad_type == 'hybrid' ) { let pb_bid = pbjs.getHighestCpmBids( div_id ); pb_bid = pb_bid.length ? pb_bid[0].cpm : 0; FFADS.debug( 'Prebid bid ' + pb_bid + ' for #' + div_id ); if( pb_bid < FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].cpm ) { FFADS.debug( 'Custom code won for #' + div_id ); document.getElementById( div_id ).innerHTML = FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].code; eval( FFADS.units[ad_unit].custom_ads[0].rendering_script ); return; } } apstag.setDisplayBids(); pbjs.setTargetingForGPTAsync( [div_id] ); FFADS.debug( 'sending DFP request for ' + ad_unit + ' #' + div_id ); googletag.pubads().refresh( [FFADS.units[ad_unit].instances[div_id].gt_slot] ); } function firefly_pbjs_bids_back_single( ad_unit, div_id = false ) { div_id = div_id || ad_unit; FFADS.debug( 'PB bids back for ' + ad_unit + ' #' + div_id ); window['firefly_pbjs_ready' + ad_unit] = true; if( window['firefly_a9_ready' + ad_unit] ) return sendSingleAdserverRequest( ad_unit, div_id ); } function firefly_a9_bids_back_single( ad_unit, div_id = false ) { div_id = div_id || ad_unit; FFADS.debug( 'A9 bids back for ' + ad_unit + ' #' + div_id ); window['firefly_a9_ready' + ad_unit] = true; if( window['firefly_pbjs_ready' + ad_unit] ) return sendSingleAdserverRequest( ad_unit, div_id ); } !function(a9,a,p,s,t,A,g){if(a[a9])return;function q(c,r){a[a9]._Q.push([c,r])}a[a9]={init:function(){q("i",arguments)},fetchBids:function(){q("f",arguments)},setDisplayBids:function(){},targetingKeys:function(){return[]},_Q:[]};A=p.createElement(s);A.async=!0;A.src=t;g=p.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];g.parentNode.insertBefore(A,g)}("apstag",window,document,"script","//c.amazon-adsystem.com/aax2/apstag.js"); apstag.init({ pubID: 'da224ee9-07c8-4a80-87e4-528df4ac939e', adServer: 'googletag', bidTimeout: FFADS.prebid_timeout }); var a9_slot_arr = []; for( var ad_unit in FFADS.units ) { if( ! FFADS.units[ad_unit].lazy_load ) var a9_slot_arr = a9_slot_arr.concat( [ { slotID: ad_unit, slotName: FFADS.get_unit_path( ad_unit ), sizes: FFADS.units[ad_unit].sizes } ] ); }; FFADS.debug( 'requesting A9 bids for initial units' ); apstag.fetchBids( { slots: a9_slot_arr }, function( bids ) { FFADS.debug( 'A9 bids back for initial units' ); FFADS.a9_ready = true; if( FFADS.pbjs_ready ) return sendInitialAdserverRequest(); } );

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