Two-time sinus cancer survivor: Find humor, joy in hardship

Cancer wasn’t Adel Tawfik’s first medical crisis. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Adel had two open-heart surgeries. In 2015, he had a near-fatal colectomy after Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis diagnoses. Then, in 2016, he fell and broke several ribs, puncturing a lung. Shortly afterwards, he learned that the pain on the right side of his face wasn’t from the fall; it was oral cancer — specifically, sinus cancer — that was spreading across his face. “I remembered thinking, ‘God, I need a break,’” he says. “Then I felt God say, ‘Why are you asking for another break? I just gave you a big one break in your ribs.’ I began to laugh, and that’s when I said to myself, ‘I can handle this. I’m going to be OK.’” The 69-year-old has used humor to get through every challenge he’s faced. “The glass is always half-full. Actually in my case, the glass is probably 90% empty,” he jokes. “But that 10% is valuable and a very good reason to enjoy life.” Initial oral cancer treatment For Adel, music and family represent the 10% of joy left in his life. That’s why he initially didn’t want a surgery that threatened to end his ability to sing. Ehab Hanna, M.D.; Clifton Fuller, M.D., Ph.D.; and now-retired medical oncologist Merrill Kies, M.D.; collaborated to develop a treatment plan that included four rounds of chemotherapy, followed by seven weeks of daily high-dose radiation therapy. Adel rang the bell at MD Anderson to mark the end of his treatment on Dec. 7, 2016. “My lips were cracked and bleeding from the radiation, but that was...