Woman drops 500 pounds after losing tongue to cancer: 'I'm alive for the very first time in my life'

( SWNS )

In a twist of fate, a 35-year-old New York woman said that being diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer and losing 95 percent of her tongue actually saved her life at a time when she was topping the scales at nearly 650 pounds.

“I had to die a little in order to learn to appreciate how it felt to truly be alive,” Jen Costa, who has dropped nearly 500 pounds in two and half years, told SWNS. “I’m alive for the very first time in my life.”

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Costa said it started in 2015 with pain in her mouth while ordering food on the phone, and that she sought the opinion of a dentist who allegedly dismissed the small white lump on her tongue as a virus. When she finally found a doctor willing to take her complaints seriously, she learned that it was stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma that had spread to the lymph nodes in her neck, SWNS reported.

Despite her diagnosis, doctors were unwilling to treat her because of her obesity.

"He told me he didn't feel comfortable operating on me because of my size,” Costa told SWNS. "He denied me surgery because he said the radiation wouldn't get through to my neck because of all the fat.”

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Costa said her weight trouble began after a car accident left her bedbound. She said she spent her days eating takeout food and had started self-medicating with drugs, eventually gaining 350 pounds over 14 years.

She did eventually find a doctor willing to operate, but it involved removing 95 percent of her tongue and reconstructing it using skin from her arm. Costa was told she risked needed a feeding tube for the rest of her life, and would need a ventilator to breathe, but she has defied the odds, according to SWNS.

“To be honest I don’t know how I survived it,” she told the news outlet.

Costa now is on a diet of liquid shakes and has had several procedures to remove excess skin since her dramatic weight loss. She said she is unable to taste food and chew properly and misses pizza and the taste of her grandmother’s chicken. Still, Costa knows she would have eaten herself to death if she hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer.

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“The diagnosis just turned my life completely around,” she told SWNS.

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