Historically, a lot of people who’ve had cancer didn’t have good outcomes. But it’s through their hardships — and the continuous breakthroughs in research — that people like me have been able to overcome the disease. I can’t help but be moved by that.
That’s why as a throat cancer patient myself, I chose to give back and help others, too. While undergoing treatment at MD Anderson, I enrolled in a clinical trial for head and neck cancer patients. I also participate in a study on symptoms to follow my throat cancer treatment, recovery and survivorship journey.
My throat cancer diagnosis
I was diagnosed with cancer in May 2011, and it was a devastating blow to my family. My mother had just passed away, and my wife was pregnant with our third son. My first reaction was, “What am I going to do? I can’t leave my family.”
I thought I’d just been experiencing ear and sinus infections, and had taken several rounds of antibiotics. Then, my ENT performed an endoscopic exam and found a small tumor in my nasal pharynx area.
Five days later — at my physician-sister’s urging — I came to MD Anderson. After another endoscopic evaluation and an MRI, I learned I had stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer, a rare type of throat cancer.
My throat cancer treatment
Even though my cancer wasn’t common, I felt confident that MD Anderson doctors had dealt with it before and that they knew how to treat it. My doctors, G. Brandon Gunn, M.D., and William Nassib William, M.D., told me what to expect every step of the way. They and their staff put me instantly at ease. I felt cared for from the start.
My treatment plan included chemotherapy and radiation. I began receiving the drugs cisplatin and docetaxel intravenously in June. Radiation treatments began in mid-July and I continued the cisplatin through Sept. 1, when I finally rang the bell to mark the end of my treatment.
On the other side of throat cancer
The worst side effects I experienced were nausea and vomiting. I lost 50 pounds during treatment. And by the end of it, I was living off of liquid meals. I lost my sense of taste at first, too, but it came back. And the radiation made it look like I was sunburned on my neck and face. But I have had no lasting or debilitating side effects. And as of March 2012, I have had no evidence of disease, either.
When I look back now, I can see that I felt hopeless at the time I was diagnosed. But that feeling left me once I set foot inside MD Anderson, and it has never returned.
Gratitude for MD Anderson and clinical trials
Today, when anybody asks me where I recommend going for cancer treatment, I immediately respond: run to MD Anderson. It’s worth it to go there first rather than letting it be a last resort. I want people to know that MD Anderson gave me back my life. Now I can enjoy it again with my beautiful wife, Shanna, and watch our three sons grow into men.
I am beyond grateful to past patients, and thankful for the many men and women who helped me in my own personal battle with cancer. They did it the MD Anderson way: with love, spirit and determination. It carried me to a successful outcome. And for that, my family and I are eternally thankful.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. But I was given the opportunity to be a survivor, and that’s what I want for others.