A father-of-two, whose ‘cold sore’ turned out to be aggressive skin cancer that has ravaged his face, is barely able to chew after an operation to use his pec muscle to cover a gaping hole in his chin was unsuccessful.
In 2016, Peter Lisle, 48, from Gin Gin, Queensland, had his jaw removed and replaced with bones from his leg and flesh from his forehead. Yet, nothing seems to be able to rebuild his jaw.
Mr Lisle, who has squamous cell carcinoma, said: ‘Right now, my jaw is just kind of swinging there. It makes chewing incredibly difficult and I find I’m very self-conscious about eating in public.’
Although doctors are confident Mr Lisle, whose cancer has returned multiple times, is now disease free, him and his wife Katie Lisle, 38, are less convinced.
She said: It’s come back once before, so we can’t guarantee it really has gone this time. No matter what we do, we just can’t seem to crack this cancer.’
Mr Lisle, a former construction worker who has been unable to earn money since becoming ill, is speaking out to raise money towards reconstruction surgery overseas.
Around two in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer before they turn 70, with squamous cell carcinoma being five times more common than all other forms of the disease combined.
Peter Lisle whose ‘cold sore’ turned out to be aggressive skin cancer that ravaged his face, is barely able to chew after an operation to use his pec muscle to cover a gaping hole in his chin (pictured after having part of the skin on his jaw replaced by his forehead)
Mr Lisle’s cancer has returned multiple times, however, doctors are now confident he is disease-free after taking biopsies after every operation (pictured before it returned in 2015)
His wife Katie, 38, (pictured left with their children Dylan, 12, and Taneesha, 10) is unconvinced
WHAT IS SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA?
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the upper layers of the skin.
It often looks like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central dip or warts, all of which may crust or bleed.
They can become disfiguring or life-threatening if allowed to grow.
More than one million people are diagnosed with SCC every year in the US. Its UK prevalence is unclear.
SCC is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds.
People are more likely to suffer if they:
- Have fair hair or skin
- Work outdoors
- Are over 50
- Have a personal or family history of the disease
- Have a suppressed immune system, such as chemotherapy or AIDS patients
Squamous cell carcinoma often looks like scaly red patches or open sores
Although SCC can occur anywhere on the body, it is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face and hands.
SCCs spotted at an early stage and removed promptly are mostly curable and cause minimal damage.
Treatment typically includes surgery to remove the growth, as well as radiotherapy and topical drugs.
People can reduce their risk of developing the disorder by:
- Wearing a high-factor sun cream that is reapplied at least every two hours, or more if swimming
- Covering up with clothing
- Seeking shade between 10am and 4pm
- Not using UV tanning beds
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation
‘He feels he looks like a monster’
Mr Lisle, who has undergone several operations, has had biopsies performed after every procedure, with doctors being confident the disease has been completely removed.
Yet Mr Lisle and his wife are less convinced.
She said: ‘It’s come back once before, so we can’t guarantee it really has gone this time.
‘No matter what we do, we just can’t seem to crack this cancer. It just springs up wherever it wants to.’
Mr Lisle is due to travel for treatment in Brisbane for a check-up at the beginning of February.
Ms Lisle said: ‘It’s a 12-hour round trip for a really short appointment.
‘We feel very frustrated. We understand nobody knows where to go next with this, but we can’t help but feel we’re on our own with it.’
Feeling he has run out of options in his native Australia, Mr Lisle plans to look further afield for a reconstructive surgeon and has been in contact with medics in the US.
Ms Lisle said: ‘We’re happy to go wherever someone can help us, whether that’s the USA, the UK or anywhere else.
‘Mentally, I’m doing okay, but Peter struggles. He gets very depressed and feels he looks like a monster. He doesn’t like going out because of it.
‘If we could find someone to help him get his life back, we’d be incredibly grateful.’
Mr Lisle has had multiple surgeries to fix his jaw, but nothing seems to be working (pictured just before having surgery to remove his pec muscle and use it to fix his fistula)
He says his jaw is ‘swinging there’, which makes eating difficult and causes him to feel self-conscious when out in public (pictured after undergoing the ‘pec operation’)
Mr Lisle had surgery after developing a fistula, which is an abnormal channel between two cavities (pictured in 2015 after surgery to have skin from his forehead replace his jaw)
After his procedure in 2015, Mr Lisle was left with a pencil-sized mouth that needed widening
His appearance depresses him as it makes him feel like ‘a monster’, according to Ms Lisle
Mr Lisle does not like leaving the house, with his wife saying he needs to get his life back
‘Nothing seems to be making a difference’
Mr Lisle had surgery in 2016 after developing a fistula, which is an abnormal channel between two cavities.
More recently, doctors have taken his pec muscles and put them on his neck in a five-hour operation to ‘plug’ the hole.
Yet, the procedure was unsuccessful.
Since then, surgeons have removed a shard of bone from the hole, as well a metal plate and titanium screws that previously held his jaw together.
Mr Lisle said: ‘Nothing seems to be making a difference. We’re at the stage where nobody is sure where to go next.’
Picture shows the fistula in Mr Lisle’s jaw before his pec muscle was placed over it
Image shows Mr Lisle’s leg, where part of his fibula bone was removed and placed in his jaw
‘The cancer had come back again’
Mr Lisle’s ordeal began in July 2013 when he saw his doctor about what he believed to be a stubborn cold sore.
Instead, a biopsy revealed the growth was an aggressive form of skin cancer, resulting in him having two operations, one lasting 12 hours and the other almost 24, at Gladstone Hospital, Queensland.
The procedures involved removing half of his bottom lip and a small part of his mouth.
At the time doctors believed the cancer was gone, however, in April 2015, Mr Lisle noticed his mouth was slow to heal after he had a wisdom tooth was removed.
He said: ‘Instead of the swelling going down, it grew and grew aggressively.
‘I went to the doctor’s to make sure it was not what I thought it was. But it was. The cancer had come back again.’
Between May and October 2015, Mr Lisle had four bouts of surgery to remove his tumour at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane; six hours away from his home.
The first procedure removed a small tumour from his lower lip, while the second 20-hour operation took out his lower jaw. A piece of his forehead was then cut off and joined to his bottom lip.
Mr Lisle’s mouth was left with just a small hole, around the same diameter as a pencil, therefore he had further surgery to widen it, before doctors attempted to rebuild his jaw using his left leg’s fibula bone.
Mr Lisle said: ‘For nine months, Katie and I had to be in Brisbane, six hours away from the kids, who we left with their grandparents.
‘It was the hardest thing ever being away from them.’
Donate towards Mr Lisle’s treatment here.
Ms Lisle (pictured in 2016) feels the family are on their own as doctors don’t know what to do
Mr Lisle (pictured in 2017) is prepared to go overseas to have reconstruction surgery
He feels options are limited in his native Australia (pictured before his cancer returned)
Mr Lisle (pictured before he developed cancer) has been unable to work since becoming ill and is appealing for donations to help raise money towards seeking treatment abroad