It began the summer of 1996 with an intermittent swelling on the right side of my neck. My Las Vegas internist suspected an infection and began a course of unsuccessful antibiotics. The next step was an MRI. The pictures showed a soft tissue mass in my neck, possibly a necrotic lymph node. But it wasn’t to be that easy.
A week later the mass was removed and biopsied. The biopsy showed cancer. I was stunned. I was further discouraged upon learning the neck was not the primary site. Locating this primary site was imperative. The search began immediately. After several tests a tumor was located at the base of my tongue, uncommon in a nonsmoker, but I had been a heavy drinker for many years.
Through a close friend, I learned of a prominent head and neck surgeon at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. I headed to Houston for a second opinion.
In Houston, I was told that due to the tumor’s location, it could not be removed. The initial biopsy was inconclusive. I underwent a second biopsy; again, it was inconclusive. The primary site was not identified.
I returned to Las Vegas to start external beam radiation therapy to be followed by a radical neck dissection.