For some months I had been planning my trip to NJ to go on a cruise to Bermuda on May 3 with my 87 year old father, my six siblings with their spouses, and a few other family members and friends. My plan was to leave my home in Florida on April 23, 2014 take my time driving, visiting family members along the way, and arriving in NJ around May 1, 2014. But all of a sudden there was a new priority.
I had been complaining about a sore throat and earache on my left side, off and on for about 3 months. I started getting weird headaches on the back left side of my head and decided I better see what was going on before I left on my trip. I saw a neurologist and an eye Doctor and the results came back good. Then, I went to an ENT Doctor at the Sinus and Nasal Institute in St. Petersburg and Dr. Alla Solyar found some excess soft tissue behind my nose and redness and swelling at the base of my tongue. She adjusted my acid reflux medication and told me to come back in a week and if the swelling hadn’t gone she suggested the possibility of a biopsy. After the week the redness had improved a little but we decided to go ahead with the biopsy. Doctor Solyar scheduled my biopsy for April 2, and on March 31 I had the pre-op chest x-ray, EKG and blood work. My EKG came back abnormal and I had to scramble to see my cardiologist for clearance. Doctor Solyar was able to squeeze me in for the biopsy on April 3.
On April 8, Doctor Solyar called to tell me I have cancer and asked if I was going to have my treatments in Florida or New Jersey. When Doctor Solyar found out I would be close to Philadelphia she set me up with Dr. Gregory Weinstein, a specialist in Robotic Surgery, (the first Doctor ever to perform it on neck cancer) at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia.
I had a pet scan on April 10, which showed the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck and a biospsy on my thyroid on April 16. I ended up flying out to NJ on April 18, and was able to see Dr. Weinstein on April 23. On April 28th, Dr. Weinstein did some biopsies and we found out I wasn’t a candidate for the Robotic Surgery as my tumor was too deep.
Since that time, I have begun Radiation and Chemo Treatments at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia. With that came a new concern. How was I going to get to my treatments every day? Where would I stay?
A very wonderful organization called the HEADstrong Foundation came to my rescue. I was contacted and told about this wonderful place known as Nick’s House where I would be staying in an apartment fully furnished, down the street from the train station that would drop me off across the street from the hospital! This was a place to help cancer patients like myself to get to treatments and for family members and caregivers to have a place to stay near the hospital. It was the answer to a prayer. I have quality of life here without being a burden on extended family and the pride of being self-sufficient for as long as I’m able. I will never be able to repay Headstrong Foundation and Nick’s House for the opportunity they have given me. There are messages of hope all over this place and there is no question but to “believe”.