Skull base tumor survivor: MD Anderson’s expertise saved my life

As a homicide detective, I deal with people in bad situations all the time. But to be on the other side of that equation is very scary and tough. Still, that’s exactly where I found myself about this time last year, when I learned I had a skull base tumor called chordoma of the clivus.

I’d been experiencing really bad double vision for a couple of weeks. But I chalked it up to stress. When I finally went to the doctor, he ordered an MRI. It showed a large mass in my skull, right behind my eyes. Neither my regular doctor nor the neurologist he referred me to had any idea what to do or how to treat it. So my wife, Dusty, and I started researching our options.

The one place we kept coming back to was MD Anderson. It had an entire team dedicated to tumors like mine, in the skull base, which I found very impressive. Finally, I called and made an appointment. And I’m here today because I chose MD Anderson for my skull base tumor treatment.

Rare skull base tumor diagnosis requires tough choices

It was tough to make the nine-hour drive back and forth to Houston from my home in Alabama. But I knew I couldn’t receive adequate care here in Mobile. And I also knew that if I wanted to watch my four-year-old son grow up and become a man, I’d have to make some tough choices.

Meeting with my MD Anderson neurosurgeon, Dr. Shaan Raza, was such a relief. He was so nonchalant about the whole thing; it gave me confidence, too.

Dr. Raza said, “Yes, you have a rare tumor. But it’s not rare here.” And he told me that he’d seen two other patients with tumors just like mine that same morning. Then he said, “We’ve got this.” That really put me at ease.

My skull base tumor treatment

I had surgery to remove my skull base tumor at MD Anderson on Dec. 5, 2018. After recovering for about a month, I came back for eight weeks of proton therapy. And I’ve been cancer-free ever since.

There’s always a little worry in the back of my mind, like, “Will it come back?” or “Did they really get it all?” But I knew I was in the right place from day one. Dr. Raza and my head and neck surgeon, Dr. Shirley Su, gave me hope when all seemed hopeless. And I know that if my cancer ever does come back, they’ll do everything they can to help me beat it again.

That’s why I gave each of them a “challenge coin” from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department. The coins represent hope, strength, and determination — and are for people who never give up, even when things get hard. That describes both Dr. Raza and Dr. Su. It also describes MD Anderson.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.