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Jay Jaszkowski: Combining Surgery and a Sense of Humor To Fight Cancer

Jay Jaszkowski

“I just couldn’t believe I had cancer. I know everybody says that, but I could not believe it.”

Jay Jaszkowski
Nasal Cancer

They say laughter is the best medicine. That's what keeps Jay Jaszkowski positive, despite the challenging circumstances he's faced.

Three years ago, Jay sought treatment at a San Antonio Ear Nose and Throat clinic for a concerning itch in his ear and a blocked nasal passage. Several months later, he returned with what he thought was a growth in his nostril. The doctor treated this as an infection for more than seven months. As his condition worsened, testing revealed a frightening diagnosis: paranasal sinus cancer, a rare cancer that affects the nasal cavity and the sinuses.

“I just couldn’t believe I had cancer. I know everybody says that, but I could not believe it,” said Jay, who was 56 years old when diagnosed.

He was referred to Texas Oncology-San Antonio for care. Chemotherapy was not recommended, and radiation oncologist Jennifer Lee, M.D., made it clear to him that radiation would buy him time, but it would not fully cure him. He also needed surgery, and she worked to identify a surgeon.

“They majorly helped me. I went to every doctor in town that I could. I really did. Nobody wanted to do anything for me. Whether it was issues with insurance, or they felt it was too risky, nobody would touch me. I felt like a guinea pig.”

“My heart went out for Jay. He was so nervous and overwhelmed by the large tumor growing out of his nose. It is a rare cancer that not many people have seen before in practice and so most people he saw did not feel comfortable taking on the case. His insurance did not cover many of the well-equipped surgeons in SA,” said Dr. Lee. “I wanted to find him a proficient surgeon that he felt comfortable with because I knew he needed the surgery. I did not want insurance limitations to dictate his care. Fortunately, I was able to find him care within our practice.”

Dr. Lee connected Jay to a Texas Oncology colleague in Dallas, William McNamara, M.D., FACS, a surgical specialist in oral, head, and neck cancers. Jay liked his approach and agreed to the surgery.

“Another surgeon I met wanted to cut into my eyelids, my lips and on the side of my face,” Jay said. “I needed some kind of shot at a normal life; you know?”

At the time of surgery, the tumor in Jay's nasal cavity was so large that Dr. McNamara had to remove his entire nose.

Although he knew it had to be done, removing his nose was traumatic. As a single man, he felt disfigured and isolated. After he received a prosthesis, his life was transformed. Now, he is an inspiration for others with missing body parts and deformed limbs.

After undergoing radiation at Texas Oncology, he has been cancer-free for more than a year. He may have lost his nose, but he has not lost his sense of humor.

“The thirteen-floor haunted house here in the city has been a blast to work at during Halloween.” Offering thrills and shrills to those who enter, Jay recalls his special role in the Halloween display.

“I was the first scene you walk up to. It’s a little ticket booth with saloon-style doors. I’m all dressed up with makeup and a costume and I jump out through the doors and yell ‘5 cents a ticket.’ It’s really cool.”

Jay is convinced that his sense of humor and outgoing personality helped him get through a lot. But he credits the clinical guidance and care provided by Dr. Lee and Dr. McNamara as being the turning point in his cancer treatment.

“Dr. Lee listened to me and found me a surgeon with the skills and treatment plan that I could trust,” said Jay. "Then, Texas Oncology continued to care for me and make sure that I was cancer-free."

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.