Nashville impersonator battles cancer, urges early screenings - WSMV News 4

Nashville impersonator battles cancer, urges early screenings

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A Nashville entertainer is talking about her ongoing battle with cancer and speaking out in hopes that others will learn from her story.

Lori Stegner is a gifted performer who can sing and perform celebrity impersonations.

About 14 months ago that all changed when Stegner was diagnosed with stage three squamous cell cancer of the tongue.

"They said to me, 'You are in for the fight of your life.' I remember those words," said Stegner.

She underwent a 10 1/2-hour surgery where doctors removed 65 percent of her tongue.

Surgeons then removed skin from her arm to construct what's called a "tongue flap." She also had to endure five chemotherapy sessions and 27 rounds of radiation.

"I was in the fetal position on the couch. Your quality of life goes out the window," said Stegner.

She said she didn't act fast enough when her doctor urged her to have a biopsy. She just thought her sore throat would eventually go away.

Vanderbilt Dr. Sarah Rohde has been working with Stegner and said it's not uncommon for patients to ignore these early warning signs.

"It has a very innocuous beginning as a sore that doesn't heal or a sore throat that doesn't get better or it's a painless lump in neck. All of those things are not necessarily recognized as troublesome in the first few months of diagnosis," said Rohde.

Stegner hopes that her story will inspire others to act.

"I want them to understand that no one is immune to cancer. I rarely drank and did not smoke. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone," said Stegner.

Doctors want to reiterate that early detection is the key to beating cancer.

Vanderbilt will hold a free head and neck cancer screening day on Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Odess Head and Neck Surgery Clinic, 7209 Medical Center East, South Tower.

The Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences is located at 1215 21st Ave. South and parking is available in the East Garage.

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