Head and Neck Cancer Survivor | Mark’s Story

– I’m one of these guys
that’s never been sick a day in their life, until one day, just
sitting in my house watching TV, my girlfriend
is sitting next to me, and I just put my hand up
on my neck. I go,
“There’s a lump on my neck.” My girlfriend says,
“Oh, that’s nothing.” I said,
“No, it’s not nothing.” I had to go to an ENT to get
a needle aspiration in my neck, And, I’m on the bus
commuting home from the city, I get a phone call
from the doctor. “I don’t know how to
tell you this,” he says, “but you have squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.” And I’m looking at the internet and I’m going, well, if you have that,
you know, they’re probably
gonna just like, remove your voice box. I’m going, “oh, this is great; you know, I’ll live like,
a few more years and I won’t be able to talk”. You know, things like that. I was scared to death. I’ve always considered myself
a New Yorker. The first thing
I thought of was, well, let me go to
the top hospitals in New York. But honestly, I did not have
great experiences there in the past
with other family members. It seemed like
being in New York even at the most highly rated institutions, you were more of a number,
and that was not for me. I needed somebody
to take care of me. When I went to Dr. Weinstein’s
office, he immediately calmed me down, because, you know, I started telling him,
“Gee, am I going to live?” He’s going, “You’re going to be
perfectly fine when you get out of here. Don’t worry about a thing.” He actually has
quite a sense of humor because I said to him, “Gee, I feel like
a really lucky guy.” He goes, “Well, you’re not
that lucky. You have cancer.” [chuckles] But he said,
“Don’t worry about it. I’m going to take care of you.” And the fact is,
he really did take care of me. – Mark has a really
larger-than life personality and he has kind of,
an expectation to live an extremely full life,
and I knew that we could achieve that
with TORS, with him. And I had no hesitation strongly
recommending it for him. With transoral robotic surgery,
you get a 90% cure rate and almost nobody ends up
with a long-term stomach tube. And once the side effects
of the treatment kind of, dissipate and go away, you really end up with
overall a great quality of life. – I came out of the surgery
and my girlfriend told me that the man
literally came out and was almost jumping
up and down with joy and saying,
“We found the primary tumor. We have removed it. We didn’t touch a single nerve. He’s going to have
no side effects whatsoever.” – Mark was an ideal candidate
for proton therapy. One, because we know that conventional
radiation therapy to the head/neck region
that Mark needed can cause
significant side effects. We also knew that we’re one of
the only sites in the world that can deliver,
and has the technology to be able to deliver
a pencil-beam scanning proton therapy that is required
for head/neck radiation. – I was
in this hospital a lot, and I was coming here
for one specific reason, to be treated for cancer. Every single time
I came here, not only did I feel good
coming here, I felt great leaving here. The way they treat you here,
like I said, it’s like you’re the president
of the United States. – Mark’s long-term prognosis
is excellent. We expect him to live
cancer-free for the rest of his life, and we also expect
his treatments not to interfere with his life
now or in the future. Mark: This summer I was hiking
10-mile hikes with like, 1500 feet
or 2000 feet of elevation; on 90-degree days, schlepping a pack
with two giant water bottles and riding my bike, going to the ocean, going dancing
with my girlfriend. My life was completely
back to normal. And when my girlfriend looks at
me she says, “I think you even look better than before the surgery.” [chuckles] I say, “Okay, I’ll take that
as a compliment.” But honestly,
my life is totally normal. I feel perfect, and it’s because
of Dr. Weinstein and the Penn Medicine team.


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