Until a few years ago, my father was the only person in my family who’d ever had cancer. In 1997, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.
My dad developed the disease in his lungs after working in the electrical services industry for 20 years. By the time he was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to his brain. My father died of complications of mesothelioma in 1999, at age 50.
I’ve worked in health and education for most of my professional life, so as far as I know, I’ve never been exposed to asbestos. I never thought I’d receive a cancer diagnosis of my own. But life can change in a moment. Mine did in October 2017.
My skull base tumor diagnosis
I’d been seeing my family doctor for about nine months to treat what I thought was a stubborn sinus infection. But it kept getting worse, even after several rounds of antibiotics and oral steroids. I couldn’t breathe out of the right side of my nose. I was getting bad headaches, too.
My doctor referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He ordered a CT scan and an MRI, which showed a growth in my sinus cavity. The next day, he ordered a biopsy.
It took two and a half weeks and several different medical labs to get a concrete diagnosis. When the results finally came back, my ENT gave me the news: I had esthesioneuroblastoma, also known as olfactory neuroblastoma. It’s a rare type of skull base tumor that starts in the sinus cavity and grows toward the brain.
Choosing MD Anderson for skull base tumor treatment
But I knew that I wanted to go to MD Anderson for my skull base tumor treatment. It has a reputation as a highly regarded cancer hospital. And I knew its doctors would have experience with my specific type of cancer, which was important. So I made an appointment, then made the trip from Missouri to Houston.
Life after a skull base tumor
At MD Anderson, we met with sinus and skull base tumor surgeon Dr. Shirley Su and radiation oncologist Dr. Clifton Fuller. They recommended surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 32 radiation therapy treatments. Dr. Su explained that the entire procedure would be performed through the nose and I would have no external scars. She performed the surgery on Nov. 20, 2017. I started my radiation treatments in January 2018, and finished the following month. I’ve shown no evidence of disease since then.
I experience some dry mouth now, and I have no sense of smell anymore. My thyroid was a little damaged by the radiation, too, so I’m taking medication for that. And I have to rinse my sinuses a couple of times a day with a saline solution. But other than that, my life is pretty much back to normal. I work full time and play golf and just try to make the most of every day.
Cancer changes your life. But MD Anderson does an exceptional job of treating each and every patient as a valuable human being with a life worth saving. So, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.