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With a positive attitude, Chief Meteorologist Jeff Lawson steps away from forecasting to handle health issue

Surgery to remove part of Jeff's tongue could make delivering the forecast a bit of a challenge.

NORFOLK, Va. — 13News Now Chief Meteorologist Jeff Lawson is all about staying fit.

He has the pedal power to bike at least three days a week, for a total of 40 to 60 miles. When he's not on his bike, he's in the water swimming or even rowing. 

"I work out a lot," Jeff said while taking a short break on the bike trail along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, heading into the scenic First Landing State Park. "You just forget about your troubles, concentrate on something you can control."

That is part of the positive attitude Jeff will lean on during a medical bump in the road, with an outcome, unlike the weather, that he can't predict.

"Right now, it's leukoplakia or erythroplakia," he said of his recent diagnosis. 

Credit: Adrian Guerra, 13News Now
13News Now Chief Meteorologist Jeff Lawson takes a break from biking along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach.

According to the Mayo Clinic, leukoplakia are thick, white patches on the gums, cheeks, or tongue. Erythroplakia are abnormal red lesions on the mucous membranes in the mouth. 

With Jeff, the problem is on his tongue. 

"Sort of like when you go to the doctor, they burn off stuff that they think is precancerous, freeze it off, I should say," he explained. "Then, if it's a little worse, they cut it off. Well, it's sort of the same thing. They're abnormal cells that he [doctor] doesn't think is cancerous as of right now."

A surgeon will cut out the affected part of Jeff's tongue, which is about 20% of its surface. That's close to the size of his thumb.

"Even if it's only a 20% chance. Do you want to take a 20% chance that it turns into cancer?"  he noted.

This isn't the first time for Jeff. Five years ago, he had to have about 10% of the surface area of his tongue removed for the same reason. 

Speech therapy got him back in shape to hit the airwaves sooner than doctors expected.

But this time, Jeff doesn't know how much his speech will be affected and how much delivering a forecast could be hampered.

Surgery is scheduled for October 10.

"Am I able to communicate enough so that people on the air aren't turned off by it? I don't know," he said. 

What Jeff does know is that he will continue to embrace his health, and he is extremely thankful for his more than 40-year career as a meteorologist. Thirty-three of those years have been right here at 13News Now.

"If I have to take a step back -- not even step back, but step away -- it will give me a chance to spend more time with my lovely wife and travel more and all that. So I'm just thankful I have my health, even if I can't talk great," he said.

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