Tammy Jordan, 43, Hattiesburg, Mississippi—
I am a 43 year old, speech-language pathologist from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I have been married for 21 years. I have a 12 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. In April 2011, after several weeks of mild hoarseness, I finally went to my family E.N.T. For eight weeks, I was told that I didn’t have cancer because I was too young and was a non-smoker. However, when my doctor finally did a biopsy, he confirmed that it was a stage one cancer (small tumor on right cord only). He referred me to a radiation oncologist and told me that after “a little bit of radiation” I would be cured.
Well, thankfully, I decided to do some research and received a second opinion by Dr. Steven Zeitels in Boston. We were very surpised when he confirmed that I actually had stage two vocal cord cancer (right and left) and in situ cancer in my right tonsil bed area all of which was HPV positive. Dr. Zeitels successfully removed cancer from both cords and precancer from tonsil bed area with his co2 laser. I have not had radiation or chemotherapy. My vocal cords look great. I have had no significant voice or swallowing problems since my surgery. I fly to Boston every three months for monitoring. Ironically, three weeks ago, I had to have my tonsil bed area re-lasered due to some areas of dysplasia.
I return to work this Thursday and am very grateful that areas were not cancerous just precancerous. I feel very blessed to have found Dr. Zeitels. I should add that my CT scan and PET scan were normal. Dr. Z is able to identify tissue changes with endoscopy. Therefore, with his laser, he can remove any suspicious area before it has a chance to develop into a “tumor.” I am so grateful for this proactive approach which many laryngologists do not appreciate.
Head and Neck Cancer, especially HPV positive, is a journey that is not yet over for us. The key to beating this cancer is staying one step ahead of it. CT &/or PET scans are not our first line of defense. Close monitoring with superior endoscopy equipment performed by a highly trained laryngologist is absolutely the best way to catch this as early as possible. I hope my story is helpful to someone out there.