I will never french kiss my husband again with half a tongue

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Jamie Powell mourns the reality that she will “never French kiss again” with the love of her life.

When the California native discovered a raised bump on her tongue in December 2019, she never imagined it it would lead to a life-changing cancer diagnosis — one that resulted in half of her tongue being removed and replaced with leg tissue.

“I thought [the bump] was just from biting my tongue,” the 39-year-old special education worker said. “I asked my dentist if I should be worried about it and they said, ‘No, you’re fit and healthy, it’s not big deal.’ Weeks later it was still there, and it had gotten bigger.”

After undergoing tests, the Orange County resident was diagnosed with stage three tongue cancer in March 2020, which led to an eight-hour-surgery followed by 30 rounds of radiotherapy.

“I didn’t realize it until I was healed and starting to feel like my former self — but all of a sudden I just realized I wouldn’t be able to kiss him again and I couldn’t remember the last time we kissed,” she said of mourning the lost of a certain intimacy with her husband, Jonathon Powell, 40.

“I cried about it. I was sad. I was sad for him, too.”


Woman with feeding tube.
Jamie Powell struggled to eat and drink after the cancer treatment. After two years of hard recovery, she now hosts the “Young Tongues” podcast with a fellow tongue cancer survivors talking about the reality of the disease.
Jamie Powell / SWNS

Woman with scar on neck.
Powell underwent extensive surgery in 2020: “It was unbelievably sad when I realized I couldn’t kiss my husband Jonathon again,” she said tearfully.
Jamie Powell / SWNS

Jamie's tongue where you can see the bump and the black mark is where the biopsy was taken.
Powell went to the doctor, where they took a biopsy. “When I began to heal up, my tongue felt like a foreign object in my mouth,” she said. “I had to train it to be in the right place to talk and connect it with my brain.”
Jamie Powell / SWNS

Powell recently detailed her fight for her life in an interview with South West News Service. Initially just concerned about the growing bump, she went to urgent care, where they scheduled an appointment with an ENT doctor for February.

“I had the ENT and she immediately sent me for a biopsy straight away which had lots of needles going into my tongue which was very painful,” said Powell, who regularly shares her journey with nearly 100,000 followers on TikTok, where she’s racked up 4.3 million likes with videos of her family life with Jonathon.

“They told me they’d get back to me with the results,” she continued. “I still hadn’t heard anything after a week but then on March 5, 2020, they told me it was cancer of the tongue.”

Just days later, Powell — who was told she didn’t fit the profile for this cancer as she doesn’t smoke or drink — found herself meeting with 11 doctors, who told her the cancer had grown and was aggressive.

Despite the US going into lockdown on March 16, Powell underwent the extensive surgery called glossectomy, in which a surgeon removes the cancer and some of the healthy cells around it, called a margin, per the Mayo Clinic. Removing the margin helps ensure that all the cancer cells are extricated. 

“They cut half my tongue out and replaced it with tissues from my leg — and removed the lymph nodes in the neck,” she said. “It was in hospital for 10 days. I was on a feeding tube and I couldn’t talk.”


Woman red neck hair in scarf.
She never thought the bump on her tongue would be stage 3 cancer. Powell slowly regained the use of her tongue after surgery, although said she had a hard time being around her family initially when they were eating.
Jamie Powell / SWNS

Woman scar on neck.
Her surgery took eight hours, and left her needing to relearn how to eat and talk.
Jamie Powell / SWNS

It was after leaving the hospital that the real battle began for Powell, going through radiation therapy in April 2020, as she also learned to talk and eat again.

“It was unbelievably sad when I realized I couldn’t kiss my husband Jonathon again,” she said tearfully.

“When I began to heal up, my tongue felt like a foreign object in my mouth,” she said. “I had to train it to be in the right place to talk and connect it with my brain.”

Powell slowly regained the use of her tongue, although said she had a hard time being around her family initially when they were eating, and had to undergo therapy to come to terms with it.


Woman long light brown hair and sunglasses.
Powell is adjusting to her new way of life.em
Jamie Powell / SWNS

Powell now hosts the “Young Tongues” podcast with a fellow tongue cancer survivors talking about the reality of the disease. She’s even turned to humor with a blog post titled, “Will I Need to Shave My Tongue?”

“I thought it was important to share as I know how I felt,” she explained. “There was nobody out there that looked like me and I don’t want anybody to have to feel like I did.”

She also urged everyone to pay attention to any changes in their neck or mouth.

“Your dentist should be checking your teeth and your tongue,” she said. “I didn’t know that was something they should be doing.”

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