Squamous cell carcinoma - Stage IV
This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.
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I remember being diagnosed with cancer like it was yesterday. In the summer of 2003, I’d gone to my doctor complaining of some swelling on my neck. He ordered a biopsy and the test result came back as a benign cyst. We made plans to surgically remove it and on December 26, I finally did it. While doing surgery, my doctor discovered that the cyst was actually a tumor the size of a tennis ball. He also found three other tumors in my neck and a tumor at the base of my tongue.
On New Year’s Eve I was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma. It was the same cancer in the same area that my mom had been diagnosed with more than 20 years earlier. She lost her battle just one year after her diagnosis.
I went to visit a local oncologist in Kansas to discuss my treatment options. My ear, nose and throat specialist had only been able to remove the large tumor, so I was curious about the best course of treatment for the four smaller tumors left behind in my neck and mouth. He suggested chemotherapy and no further surgery.
I’m a big believer of getting to know your illness. I’ve always advocated doing your research so you know what you’re dealing with. When I went to get a second opinion from one of the premier medical oncologists in Kansas, he gave me similar treatment recommendations. I wanted to know what else I could do to fight my cancer.
The following week, I was all set to start chemotherapy, but something just didn’t feel right. I didn’t trust the information my oncologist was giving me. I decided not to treat and sought out an alternative clinic in Kansas that offered intravenous vitamin C treatments. By the end of 2004, I was told I needed more aggressive conventional cancer treatment or I was going to lose my battle.
When I searched online I found Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). I wasn’t delaying anymore and I made an appointment at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in December of 2004. When I arrived, I met with Dr. Mellijor. I loved the way he handled things from the start. He was very straightforward and told me he recommended chemotherapy, but said that I was the one who had to make the decision. I hadn’t been treated like that by any of my other doctors.
I decided whatever I had to do, I would do it. It came down to the fact that I trusted this man. I saw his honesty and compassion, and it instilled confidence in me. When I met my oncologist, Dr. Granick, I had another honest exchange between a patient and doctor. He sat with me and took the time to answer my questions. He told me I was “the boss” and when I had questions about treatment options, we would discuss it. To this day, I tell people that if your doctor won’t answer your questions, find another doctor! You’re the one with everything to gain and everything to lose.
I started seven rounds of chemotherapy treatment, spaced three weeks apart. I would travel home in between treatments to be with my wife, Cindy, and 4-year-old son, Isaac. Little did I know that every time I left, Isaac thought I was going back to the hospital to die. Cindy finally told me and we made arrangements for all of us to go to the hospital. We sat with Dr. Granick and his physician assistant, Larry Wiggins, and they answered all of Isaac’s questions. He asked everything he wanted to know. It soothed me and my wife to see these men talking to and trying to calm down a 4-year-old child. Cancer is a very difficult experience for a child to go through and it amazed me that they took the time to acknowledge that. Isaac also got quite a bit of attention from the nurses, which he loved every minute of!
After completing my chemotherapy, I returned to the hospital in June 2005 for two months of radiation and hyperthermia treatment. This time, I stayed in the hospital’s guest quarters. I took advantage of the many integrative oncology services offered at the hospital, including nutrition, massage, naturopathy, acupuncture and even some mind-body medicine. To please my wife, I took a Laughter Therapy class with Katherine Puckett and I didn’t think I would like it, but I came out of there a believer. I really felt better afterwards!
The best part for me was that Cindy was able to find support and comfort, too. I knew how I felt physically and that I was getting better, but Cindy had no indication. She was scared and would ask me how I could be so calm. I felt relieved that she could find some support, because as my caregiver for all those months she needed it. I think Cindy took more advantage of the massage and acupuncture than I did, and she deserved it.
I like to say that all of the people at CTCA sweat the small stuff—and that’s how it should be. A hundred insignificants become a big problem, and the team at CTCA deals with issues as they come up. They even helped my wife and I celebrate our anniversary. My first round of chemo took place during our 24th anniversary. My nurse found out and she brought two pieces of sugar-free, chocolate cherry cake to my room so we could celebrate. She made us feel very special!
I call cancer an inconvenient blessing because nobody wants to get it, but it can be a benefit to your life. If you can have the low moments, and not let them overwhelm you, you can learn about yourself and find strengths you never knew you had. My advice is to trust God and draw closer to him, as hard as that may seem at the time. And if you don’t have a sense of humor, get one! It’s just as important as everything else.
It’s been years since I completed my treatment and I feel so grateful to be here. I’m taking care of my wife, and we’re living every day as fully as we can with our son. He’s only going to be young for so long and I want to be there for him in every way. If it weren’t for CTCA, I know I wouldn’t be here to coach his baseball team and cheer him on at his football games. I’m looking forward to watching him grow into a successful man and being part of many life moments still to come for our family.