• 12/25/2007
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Remember the story “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?”

When bad weather almost stopped Santa from delivering gifts on Christmas Eve? Well, the same thing almost happened to the Santa you’re about to meet. But instead of dealing with bad weather, this Santa faced an even bigger problem. Throat cancer.

And just as the legendary light from that story guided Santa through the storm, a laser light helped this Santa weather the storm of cancer.

“I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying – you feel so blessed – than giving,” this Santa says.

And this Santa says he was given the gift of life when doctors at Mayo Clinic found and removed a cancerous tumor from the base of his tongue. But treatment wasn’t easy.

“These cancers and the treatments for them interfere with a lot of things we take for granted. From breathing to speaking to eating to our appearance,” says Dr. Michael Hinni, a Mayo Clinic surgeon.

Dr. Hinni says that’s because the tumors are often hard to reach. Surgery can be disfiguring, chemo is very toxic and radiation can damage other structures in your throat. But now, new CO2 laser technology that bounces light energy off mirrors is making treatment easier for some patients. First, doctors guide the flexible fiber through the mouth to the tumor. The fiber is lined with many layers of tiny mirrors. These mirrors bounce the laser energy in any direction – even around corners.

“That allows us to access tumors that we couldn’t quite get to before,” says Hinni.

The technology allowed Santa to avoid toxic chemotherapy. Still, recovery took some time.

But Santa’s back. Just in time for Christmas.

After surgery, Santa did have radiation because the cancer spread to his lymph nodes. But Dr. Hinni says his future looks bright for many Christmases to come.

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