Deborah R.

Head and Neck Cancer - Stage 2


I have nothing but great things to say about the City of Hope hospital. I recommend City of Hope to everyone I talk to about my cancer journey.

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. 

My family means everything to me. We have been through thick and thin together. With my family beside me, I can get through anything. Together, we are stronger, and we know this from experience.

I grew up in South Central Arkansas on a farm with my three sisters. I still live in Arkansas, close to the Texas/Oklahoma border in Lockesburg. I retired from Tyson Foods after 25 years. My husband, Keith, and I presently have boilers—chickens that are raised for meat. We raise baby chicks until they gain enough weight for processing. We have 20 boiler houses and five employees on our farm. We love caring for our chickens and treating them with respect during their lives.

I enjoy spending time with my husband, two stepchildren and grandchildren. I also care deeply for my sisters, which is why when Cindy was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, I was with her every step of the way.

Finding hope

I was scared when my sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to the liver. We did our research, and this was a tough cancer to beat. The research led my sister to seek treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA).* I was often at the CTCA® hospital in Tulsa with my sister to support her.

Walking in the front doors, I was impressed from the start. CTCA didn’t feel like a hospital. The lobby was so peaceful and relaxing. We felt hope. Anywhere we went, we were immediately greeted, and if we weren’t sure where to go, CTCA employees would walk us there. The patients and families were positive, kind and friendly. The hospital had an onsite cafeteria, and everything was fresh and healthy.

Through the time I spent at CTCA, I got to know all my sister’s doctors, nurses and clinicians. She had an entire care team surrounding her and supporting her throughout treatment. The best part of all was hearing that at the end of her treatment journey, scans showed no more signs of cancer.

My journey

In 2013, I started experiencing some common symptoms that I assumed was a cold. But my runny nose continued for a while, and I sought help. I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, and an MRI located a mass in my nasal passage. On December 26, 2013, I had surgery to remove the tumor and a biopsy, which concluded that I had stage 2 nasal cancer.

I didn’t hesitate with my next steps. I wanted the same care that my sister received because I trusted those doctors and nurses to get me through cancer treatment. I called my sister’s care manager at CTCA. She walked me through the steps to becoming a patient at CTCA. I sent in my health records and insurance information, and I soon had an appointment for an initial evaluation. It all happened so fast that I could hardly believe I was moving from the caregiver role into that of a patient.

I met with my care team and completed the necessary scans and examinations. Throughout the entire process, I received thorough explanations, and I did not feel rushed when I had questions. My doctor provided me information about my cancer and then talked to me about my treatment options. We decided that the first step would be radiation therapy.

I underwent radiation therapy for seven weeks. My head, face and neck were the primary areas addressed. I stayed at the hospital during this time since I needed to be there daily. I had great support from my husband, sisters and stepchildren, who all cared for me during this time.

I started chemotherapy in March 2014. I went back and forth between home and the hospital often. I had a lot of side effects during this time. My mouth would swell. I had sores in my mouth and esophagus. I experienced vomiting and diarrhea. I had a feeding tube placed to help me get the nutritional support I needed. CTCA was there for me whether I was at the hospital or home. I had access to supportive care clinicians, and I worked with a naturopathic provider and a clinical oncology dietitian, who helped reduce the side effects of the treatments.

Chemotherapy wasn’t easy for me. It was very trying and tiring. But my husband would never let me give up, encouraging me when I needed it. My sisters were the same way, praying with me and motivating me to stay strong. My care team told me that if I was willing to fight, they would be beside me every step of the way.


My last treatment was in February 2015. My scans came back all clear. My prayers were answered, and this was a milestone worth celebrating. My feeding tube was removed, and I was on a liquid diet for a year. I’ve undergone 27 surgeries to stretch my esophagus.

In January 2017, we lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. My sister and I encouraged her to also treat at CTCA, and we were with her throughout her journey. Ultimately, she lost her fight, but she was loved and supported throughout her treatment. My dad passed away that year, and our hearts mourned. We pray daily for those we have lost.

I have nothing but great things to say about the CTCA hospital. I recommend CTCA to everyone I talk to about my cancer journey.

In 2019, I’m eating solid foods, and I’m returning every six months for check-ups at the hospital. Going through cancer treatment and everything that goes along with it changed my life. Not knowing the outcome at the start changed my perspective on everything, and I appreciate so much more than I ever did. With this second chance, I want to watch my grandchildren grow up and my grandson graduate from college. I’ve seen my other grandchildren getting jobs, and I’ve celebrated their successes. I get the chance to grow old with my husband after spending the last 25 years together. We are enjoying our life together on our farm.

I pray to God every day for good health, and I thank him for his blessings. I tell others that have been diagnosed with cancer to keep their head up and don’t lose hope. Always have faith in the Lord. There are so many milestones in life to keep the fight going. 

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.

Treatment at:
  • Tulsa