Statesville police officer says battle with cancer cost him his tongue, but doctors crafted new one

Police officer talks about cancer battle

STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A member of the Statesville Police Department is opening up about his battle with cancer. Robert Beard has been with the Statesville PD for the last 15 years. He currently serves as the department’s police technology specialist.

It’s no secret that Beard has the gift of gab. Family members and colleagues laugh when talking about Beard’s knack for carrying on a conversation.

“My job requires me to do a lot of communication,” said Beard in an interview with WBTV Tuesday night. “I’m in the communications department. It requires me to do a lot of speaking – sometimes public speaking.”

In the last couple of years, cancer has made Beard’s job and life difficult. He explained that he had developed a lesion on his tongue in the summer of 2017. He thinks the root of the lesion was the continued scraping of one of his teeth against his tongue. It wasn’t until Beard got the lesion biopsied months later, that he and his family learned it was squamous cell carcinoma.

“It’s bad stuff. Cancer is bad stuff. It’s painful. It’s devastating to your life. It makes you see things different. It makes you think things different,” said Beard.

Matoka Beard, Robert’s wife, said it’s been difficult watching her husband battle such a serious illness.

“You’re never prepared to hear that diagnosis,” Matoka Beard told WBTV.

Because of the cancer, Robert has had to have multiple surgeries. One of the procedures required him to have 95 percent of his tongue removed.

“The impact on my life is not being able to speak, because I’ve always been able to speak. The hardest part is not being able to eat,” Robert Beard explained.

But Beard wasn’t without a tongue for long. Thanks to modern medicine, doctors were able to take part of the muscle from one of his legs to make him a new tongue.

“That was different. I look at my mouth and see a tongue there, but you can’t do anything with it,” described the Statesville officer.

After surgeries, chemo therapy and radiation, Beard’s family is hoping the cancer is gone for good. Unfortunately, the police veteran is currently dealing with a broken jaw. He said radiation treatment made his bones extremely weak. All the while, he’s remained committed to being a member of the Statesville Police Department.

“To go through all this and still be concerned about work. That’s incredible. That’s something you can’t find in many employees,” said Statesville Police Chief David Addison.

Even with a new tongue and a broken jaw, Beard remains committed to communicating effectively.

“I am determined. I will be talking again. I’m not gonna let it stop me from that,” said Beard.

He encourages others to seek medical attention if they notice something like an abrasion or lesion in their mouths, explaining that it could end up being something that poses a serious health risk.

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