For most of my adult life, I’ve received compliments about my deep, resonant voice. I’d even considered doing voice-over work for cartoons, but I talked myself into waiting until my golden years. I thought I had time on my side.
This past July 4, I celebrated my 41st birthday -- nothing real big, just a quiet dinner with my wife. By quiet, I mean really quiet. Three weeks earlier, I had lost my voice. After waiting another week, I finally decided to visit my doctor, and he diagnosed me with laryngitis. But the medications didn’t work, and my voice was getting worse, so I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). He found a growth on my left vocal cord and took a biopsy.
Days later, I got a call from an unknown number. I was at work so I ignored it. At home that night, my wife looked at me and said we needed to talk. At first, I thought I was in big trouble with her, but then I realized something serious was happening.
"I got a call from the doctor's office today," she told me. When I asked what they said, she began to cry. At that moment, I knew I had cancer.
Choosing my squamous cell carcinoma treatment
My ENT immediately referred us to MD Anderson. A week later, I came in for my first visit and got my official throat cancer diagnosis – specifically, primary squamous cell carcinoma of glottis. A tumor formed on my left vocal cord, and that's what was causing my hoarseness.
From that very first visit, the staff at MD Anderson has been very thorough. I visited with three different doctors on my first day: surgeon Jeff Myers, M.D., Adam Garden, M.D., and George Blumenschein, M.D. I even visited the dentist at MD Anderson. I had no idea how much cancer treatments can affect your dental hygiene.
The doctors gave me two options: have surgery to remove the throat cancer or receive both radiation and chemotherapy. They told me if I got the surgery, my voice would be at a whisper level, if I gained it back at all. I’ve opted to undergo radiation and chemotherapy.
Ready to fight
I work as a news photographer, so my job has brought me to MD Anderson many times to cover stories on patients and new technological breakthroughs. I never imagined I would one day be a patient here, much less how intense my first day would be.
After seven hours at MD Anderson that first day, I went home and tried to soak it all in. It was a lot, and it was tough. I fought back tears a few times. I was ready to fight, but I also wondered why this was happening now. I've been married three years and have a two-year-old daughter at home. Life was good.
Starting my squamous cell carcinoma treatment
After that first visit, I was both eager and nervous to begin treatment because I just didn’t know how my body would react. My doctors have done a good job of informing me about all the different things I may experience, as they’ve told me, everyone responds differently to treatment.
Last week, I started my radiation and chemo. So far, I’ve felt good physically and haven’t have any real side effects. I even went to work the rest of the week. My voice has even come back a little.
So from where I’m sitting, I feel like we have a leg up on cancer -- and it helps to know I have the best team and supporters in my corner.