Tom S.

Head and Neck Cancer - Stage IV

Tom Sellars
quotation

Before I even arrived, I received a schedule of my appointments with doctors, clinicians and care team members. I could feel how different it was from other health care facilities the moment I walked through the door. It was clear that CTCA was focused on healing body, mind and spirit. Everyone I met with provided me straight-forward answers to all my questions. They discussed the treatment plan with me and included me in the decision-making process. After meeting everyone on my care team, I knew that CTCA was the best place for me.

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. 

VIEW CTCA TREATMENT RESULTS FOR PREVALENT CANCERS WE TREAT.

I was born in Virginia and raised on the south side of Chicago. As a young man, I learned the importance of developing a strong work ethic, being part of a community and fighting tooth and nail for the things that are important to me.

I live in McHenry, Illinois, where my beautiful wife, Rachel, has lived her entire life. I have a grown daughter, son and a stepson. In 2015, I started my own business helping other businesses with financing. Prior to that, I worked 30 years in a car dealership.

In the late fall of 2016, I began experiencing an ear ache. I went to my local doctor, but nothing was found to explain my symptoms. A few months later, I began experiencing headaches. I figured that these headaches were likely caused by the stress of normal, day-to-day life. However, in December, my jaw started hurting out of the blue. At this point, there were too many unexplained symptoms at play, so my doctor sent me to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Using a scope, while I was awake, the ENT physician examined me and found a tumor on my tonsil. I was really surprised since I had my tonsils removed when I was a child.

The ENT referred me to a colleague at another hospital located in Chicago. Just days before my 55th birthday, in January 2017, I was officially diagnosed with stage IV head and neck (tonsil) squamous cell cancer, which was HPV positive. After discussions with the doctors, I wasn’t comfortable commuting daily to Chicago for treatment. I wanted to find a treatment option closer to my home.

Leaving no stone unturned

I began to search for treatment options. But nothing seemed like the right fit. I really wanted treatment that ensured my physical, emotional and spiritual needs were taken into consideration. I was also very interested in Rachel having access to caregiver support. I knew she would be with me every step of the way, and I wanted to make sure she was taken care of as well.

As an entrepreneur, I am very active in my community, and I am a member of several local chambers of commerce. It was at a chamber meeting where a friend suggested that I speak with a woman who was going through cancer treatment. She happened to receive her care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). 

I reached out to her and listened to her tell me about her experience and what CTCA® might be able to offer my wife and me. After that encounter, I called and spoke with a CTCA Oncology Information Specialist. I immediately felt connected to her as she listened and guided me through the process of going to the hospital located in Zion, Illinois, to get an evaluation and second opinion.

I was also connected with a patient who had the same type of cancer I had and treated at CTCA. I spoke to that person on several occasions, and I felt so content getting firsthand information about another patient’s positive experience going through cancer treatment. It was now the middle of February, and I felt empowered and informed enough to schedule an evaluation at CTCA.

Finding the right place

Before I even arrived, I received a schedule of my appointments with doctors, clinicians and care team members. I could feel how different it was from other health care facilities the moment I walked through the door. It was clear that CTCA was focused on healing body, mind and spirit. Everyone I met with provided me straight-forward answers to all my questions. They discussed the treatment plan with me and included me in the decision-making process. After meeting everyone on my care team, I knew that CTCA was the best place for me.

I was scheduled to begin treatment in mid-April 2017. However, prior to the beginning of my treatment, I needed to have most of my teeth removed by a dentist, so they didn’t get in the way of the radiation therapy. Two weeks after my teeth were removed, I began my treatment at CTCA, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

During treatment, I did experience some side effects, which my care team anticipated and had told me about before treatment even started. I experienced weight loss, and I met with dietitians to discuss my diet and nutrition. I experienced some emotional stress, and I worked with the mind-body team to help manage this distress and improve my quality of life. The most comforting aspect of having these supportive services available is that they are also available to my wife.

I completed that treatment plan in June 2017. I returned in August for follow-up tests and scans. Despite some lingering scar tissue that is healing normally, the scans showed no evidence of cancer.

Then in August 2018, I underwent surgery to correct a jawbone-related issue that may have resulted from the radiation therapy. The surgery has greatly improved my quality of life.

The road ahead

I found out firsthand that CTCA not only lives up to the hype, but also delivers on its promises. The environment at CTCA allows people to build relationships, which is a big part of my cancer journey. I try to talk to a lot of people when I am at CTCA. I practice the 10-foot rule, which is when you say hello to anyone within a 10-foot radius of you. I learned that from my days in the car business. This has allowed me the opportunity to connect with so many people, to feel encouraged and to share my support with others.

Outside of CTCA, if I meet someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, I strongly encourage them to check out CTCA. It is an incredible place filled with people who go the extra mile and truly care.

I am a natural people person, and I joined Cancer Fighters® in April 2017. Being part of this group provides me the opportunity to give back to others. It is a perfect fit for me since I enjoy being around people and making new connections. I also volunteer to speak with other cancer patients who have contacted CTCA for more information. I have assisted several patients by sharing my experience.

Today, my wife and I are back living the life we have planned. Before I had cancer, I always felt very busy. But going through my cancer journey has made me stop to slow down and notice what is going on around me. I appreciate and value my time with family and friends. I also take advantage of opportunities that I could have never imagined. One of the most exciting ventures that has come as a result of my cancer journey is the creation of the radio program, “Not Yet Done,” that I host with a fellow CTCA Chicago patient.

 

Diagnosed:
2017
Treatment at: