In an exclusive interview with KHOU 11’s Len Cannon, Mayor Sylvester Turner said he first knew there was an issue when he went to the dentist for a toothache.
HOUSTON — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is talking for the first time in detail about his battle with cancer.
Turner, 68, said he lost 17 pounds while going through treatment. He talked about the cancer battle and how his faith helped him along the way.
“The very moment you learned you had cancer, your thought at that moment?” KHOU 11 Anchor Len Cannon asked Turner.
“Well that threw me for a flip,” Turner said.
Everything changed when Turner, who said he has always been healthy, went to the dentist in June for a nagging toothache. The dentist noticed a lump on his jaw and sent him to a specialist.
“’Mayor, I’m going to send you for a biopsy,’” Turner said the dentist told him. “I said, ‘biopsy for what? I got a toothache.’”
The biopsy revealed he had osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. One week after his diagnosis, he had a nine-hour surgery at M.D. Anderson, where doctors took bone from his jaw and replaced it with bone from his leg. Eight days in the hospital followed.
RELATED: What is osteosarcoma? Doctors share insight on type of bone cancer Mayor Turner was treated for
“You know, I wasn’t in a lot of pain,” Turner said. “They asked on a scale of one to 10 (to rate the pain). I said two.”
On Aug. 1, he started six weeks of radiation while continuing to go to city council meetings.
“From a mental and emotional standpoint, it was good for me,” Turner said.
Good for him because he couldn’t see himself sitting around at home. He only told his family and security detail about the treatment.
“The only person on my staff (that knew) was my chief of staff,” he said.
“Council members?” Cannon asked.
“So you are showing up after radiation and nobody knew?” Cannon asked.
“They knew what I told them — I had major oral surgery,” Turner said. “I cannot imagine going through this without my faith. I told the right person who was in charge. I prayed. God knew my journey.”
“The radiation was challenging because I’m claustrophobic,” Turner said.
He had to wear a radiation mask five days a week for six weeks.
“You can’t talk because it’s so tight,” he said.
What helped him? He asked the technicians to play different music in the room.
“You got any gospel around here?” Turner would ask them. “True story. Can you find a gospel station?”
“I said, ‘Turn it up. Turn it up loud enough for me to hear it,” he said.
“It didn’t shake your faith?” Cannon asked Turner.
“It strengthened my faith because who wants to serve a God when in the most vulnerable state you can’t call on him … and he comes through,” Turner said.
President Joe Biden sent Turner a letter offering support through the fight.
RELATED: Mayor Turner diagnosed with bone cancer over the summer