Dave’s Story

I unfortunately do not have any pictures, during my battle I didn’t want any to be taken, I regret that now.

My name is Dave.  I am 40 and married with no children. I live in Iowa and work as a Plant Manager for a local company were my wife is a receptionist. Her name is Kathy.

During the summer of 2007 I noticed a lump on my neck when I was wiping sweat off my face after a round of golf. I kept it to myself and tried to ignore it for the next couple of months. In the fall of that same year my wife noticed it and immediately made me a doctor’s appointment. The day I went to the doctor he looked me over and told me he was glad I came in that day. He sent me to have a CATscan that same day. They told me I would be able to go home after the scan which gave me some relief. When the scan was finished, they told me to go back to the Doctor’s office.

Dr. Goetsch told me that it looked like cancer. I remember I had a hard time letting that in, I felt like a very heavy weight had been placed on my shoulders. I called my wife who was at work and told her that this was turning into a nightmare. She immediately came to the Doctor’s office.

Dr. Goetsch told us that we needed to see someone who knew about the neck area. He made a call to an ENT who was in the same building to see if he could see me that same day. His name is Dr. Congdon. He did his residency at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Congdon made room in his schedule and saw me that day. It was in his office I had my first scope I told my wife that I hope I don’t have to have that miserable thing done to me again, little did I know. Dr. Congdon gave me more bad news he said it looked like cancer to him but he would need to schedule me for a biopsy. About a week later I had the biopsy done and it came out as stage 4 squemacil carcinoma tonsil cancer. I then had a Petscan done which did show that the cancer appeared to be only in my neck area. Dr. Congdon told Kathy and I that he was going to send us to some Doctors that “if his grandparent’s had cancer he would want them to see these Doctors.” I will never forget that.

Kathy and I and my Mother went to Mayo Clinic. It was there that I met Dr. Kasperbaur and Dr. Foote. Dr. Kasperbaur was brutally honest about the fight and long road I had ahead of me. He asked me if it would be ok to have the Divinci Robot perform some of the surgery. I said yes. Dr. Foote who was to oversee the Radiation looked me square in the eye and told me not worry. “We will beat this.” The first positive thing said to me in 3 weeks. Surgery took over 8 hours, they removed my tonsils, jugular vein, muscle tissue in my shoulder and over 100 lymphnodes, 2 were infected. I had a radical full neck dissection.

The week I spent in the hospital was hell. I constantly coughed up mucus through the trach in my neck. I was sent home after seven nights. I was on a feeding tube at home for about 3 months. After recovery I went back to Mayo for Chemo and Radiation. I had chemo once a week and Radiation five days a week. They radiated 19 areas of my neck and chest. This went on for 6 weeks.

After treatment I returned home and was bedridden for months. I made a gradual recovery and eventually got off the pain meds. I suffered horribly from the radiation with mouth sores that caused me to use Fetenyl. One of the things that needs more attention is how difficult it is to get off the pain medication. I always tell people that not only do we get to experience cancer we also get to experience drug addiction.

I have been cancer free for 2 years now. I am involved with the local Relay For Life and raising money for the American Cancer Society. I would like to get more involved specifically with events related to Oral Cancer though. I am now back to work, thanks to my very supportive employer. Getting back to work has been a challenge as I still get tired and I still have some difficulty swallowing. I am very thankful to all my Doctors and my wife who together saved my life. Thanks for allowing me to share.


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