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Chef Grant Achatz appeared on Oprah yesterday on a show focusing on medical mistakes. Achatz told how his tongue cancer went untreated and undiagnosed for three years despite his repeatedly asking dentists and doctors about a white spot on his tongue that wouldn’t heal.
He finally went to an oral surgeon who informed him that he had stage 4 cancer. The recommended treatment was removal of the tongue and a partial neck dissection. If it had been properly diagnosed years prior when he first asked doctors about it, the pre-cancerous spot could have simply been scraped off in a matter of minutes in a routine office visit. Now he was told if they didn’t remove his tongue he would be dead in six months.
For Chef Achatz, that wasn’t an option. He told doctors “there’s absolutely no way you can do this…cooking and tasting and creating food is my passion.” “They were going to remove my soul, essentially,” he says.
He visited four doctors, all of whom recommended the same radical surgery. Finally, the University of Chicago gave him a fifth and different opinion. They agreed to “rearrange the protocol” and try chemo and radiation before surgery. Achatz has now been cancer free for about a year and a half.