Half Full or Half Empty?

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Cancer

Finding Hope in an Unexpected Place

Frank was not your everyday 64-year-old. Living a very active lifestyle, Frank still enjoyed surfing and paddle boarding all in good health. However, one day Frank noticed a lump on his neck and it didn’t go away. Frank was diagnosed with stage four skew cell neck cancer.

Appearing Out of Nowhere

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Frank admits, dealing with the shocking news was difficult, “you never want to get cancer.”

Frank was diagnosed at Long Beach Memorial in September 2012. After an MRI scan showed a mass in his neck, Jesse Tan, MD, otolaryngology/ENT referred him to see Linda Chan, MD who specializes in radiation oncology. Frank had an occult primary tumor, meaning that the malignant tumor’s primary site could not be identified during pretreatment evaluation. The mass was not connected with any body system, rather just a malignant growth that, to Frank, seemed to “appear out of nowhere.”

Dr. Chan sat down with Frank and laid out a personalized treatment plan, which consisted of 35 sessions of radiation. Dr. Chan didn’t just see him as a 64-year-old male with cancer, but as Frank, someone active with above average health.

She told Frank, “we are going to have to take some of that (referring to his vigor), but we want to take as little as possible.” 

She gave him numerous options but ultimately her goal was to not let the treatment become as bad as the disease. After doing research and realizing it was the best treatment plan Frank started radiation in October - five days a week, for three months. Frank endured many discomforting side effects as a result of the radiation. He lost blood, got blisters around his neck, couldn’t eat and lost 30 pounds.

Frank finished his radiation treatments which he described as “the light at the end of the tunnel” in December, but it wasn’t over yet.

Minimizing the Risk

Due to the high reoccurrence rate both Dr. Chan and Dr. Jesse Tan suggested that the spot be surgically removed. Even though the after effects of the surgery could present challenging setbacks, they wanted to lower the percentage of reoccurrence. On March 5, 2013, Frank underwent his operation to have a modified radical neck recession and by March 11 Frank was finally cancer-free.

Frank will continue to receive routine check-ups for the next three years before he is officially pronounced as a cancer survivor.

“I could go on and on,” Franks says, “the people at Long Beach Memorial were incredible, the level of professionalism and knowledge was outstanding from the doctors to the nurses, everybody cared. I was just amazed at all the levels of treatment both on a physical and emotional level.”

What You Do with the Water

Frank is back to surfing and paddle boarding between two to three miles a day, three times a week.  

“You realize you can’t do everything yourself,” Frank admits, “but I was most amazed by the people who are out there that can take care of you and these diseases.”

After making it through everything Frank learned that even though you must accept what happens, you never want to lose hope.

“It’s not looking at the glass as half full or half empty - it’s what you do with the water.”