Stage IV salivary gland cancer survivor: How proton therapy saved my career

It’s difficult to say that someone is “the best” at something, especially when it comes to sports. How do you determine the No. 1 golfer? Since it’s based on performance, it might be one person this week, and a different one the next. But when it comes to cancer treatment, I think there’s a clear leader: MD Anderson. I’d always heard it was the No. 1 cancer treatment center in the world. But I don’t think I really understood what that meant until I was diagnosed with stage IV salivary gland cancer in August 2015. My salivary gland cancer diagnosis I discovered I had cancer after going to my dermatologist about a little bump on my neck. It was just below my left ear, and I thought it was a swollen lymph node caused by a sinus infection. But antibiotics didn’t shrink it, and my dermatologist didn’t like the look of it, so he sent me to a local head and neck specialist. That doctor ordered an MRI, which revealed a two-inch tumor on my parotid gland. It was wrapped around a major nerve that controls the facial muscles. I had stage IV mucoepidermoid carcinoma, a very rare type of salivary gland cancer. How I came to MD Anderson I was beyond fear when I got that news. A quick internet search showed the survival rates for my type of cancer were staggeringly bad. And mine was far enough advanced that even my specialist said I needed to go to a bigger cancer center for proper treatment. He referred me to a facility in Chicago, where I grew up....