My Cancer Story

by Douglas Simms

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.

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