MAYWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- It's a message of hope that Norvell Bujarski has been wanting to share for a long time.
After losing his nose and upper jaw to cancer, the 62-year-old west suburban man not only got a new face, but also another chance at life.
"I appreciate life more. I've always been a positive person... but my goals certainly have changed dramatically in my life," Bujarski said.
Bujarski's cancer battle and what followed finally came to an end as the coronavirus began to spread around the world.
His journey started after a nasal surgery appeared not to heal. That's when the longtime owner of a printing company found out he has Stage 4 cancer.
"When they remove your nose and part of mouth, all of a sudden there's nothing there.... I can't eat. I can't drink," he said.
And although the surgery saved his life, it also radically altered his appearance. Bujarski was forced to wear a white bandana over the opening where his nose once was.
He had no front teeth and the roof of his mouth was gone, so the married husband, father and grandfather had trouble eating, drinking and talking- until Dr. Charles Palin at Loyola University Medical Center's Oral Health Center was able to help.
"To get him back looking the way he was before he started was a big deal," Palin said.
As one of only a few maxillofacial prosthodontists in the area, the doctor was able to work with a local anaplastologist to create first a prototype, then a permanent prosthetic nose that uses magnets attached to the reconstructed roof of his mouth.
"We're pretty lucky to have a 3D printer, we have fabricated his nose the way it use to look like from some of his CT data."
Now, Bujarski's transformation is complete just like his humble advice to anyone struggling with life.
"I want people to see if you give yourself some time, and if you're diagnosed with anything close to this type of stuff, you can walk out of this with a normal life," Bujarski said.
Loyola University Medical Center gives west suburban man new face, chance at life