From tonsil cancer survivor to HPV vaccine advocate

I wish the HPV vaccine had been available when I was younger. If it had been, I might not have developed the tonsil cancer that stole a year of my life, along with my taste buds, my salivary glands and my ability to eat solid food comfortably. If I’d gotten the HPV vaccine when I was a kid, chances are good that I could have avoided the six weeks of chemotherapy and 33 daily rounds of radiation therapy I endured last summer, as well as all of the unpleasant side effects they caused. My tonsil cancer diagnosis My cancer journey began in February 2016, when I started feeling pain in my jaw. I also saw some little white spots on my right tonsil, so I went to a walk-in clinic near my home in St. Martinville, Louisiana. Doctors there diagnosed me with tonsillitis and gave me some antibiotics. After a couple of weeks, I was still feeling pain in my throat, and I’d found some lumps on the right side of my neck. I went to my ENT, who also diagnosed me with tonsillitis. He prescribed steroids plus a second round of antibiotics. They made no difference. When I returned, he told me to see a dentist to make sure my teeth weren’t causing the problem. The dentist found nothing. Finally, my ENT ordered a CT scan, which showed a mass in my neck. He scheduled surgery to remove my tonsils in June and asked where I wanted to go if the biopsy showed squamous cell carcinoma. He gave me a choice between MD Anderson and a hospital closer...