Oropharyngeal Cancer Survivor
For three years, Ron Sindelar had a sore throat that just wouldn’t go away. When the lump in his throat grew larger, he knew in his heart what the diagnosis might be.
Oropharyngeal cancer. Tumors in the tonsils and throat. Stage 4.
Ron’s treatment meant an incredibly difficult road that included the loss of his teeth, insertion of a feeding tube and six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy. Doctors warned him he may never be able to eat or drink again. He had a 60 percent chance of survival.
“My story of survival is a testament to the skills of the people here,” said Ron.
With the help of skilled physicians at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center Head and Neck Surgical Oncology Clinic and speech-language pathologist Liz VanWinkle, MS, CCC-SLP, Ron learned how to swallow again. His progress, with the help of oncology dietitian Jami Tran-Balk, RD, LMNT, has been so dramatic that he is now is able to eat and drink enough on his own that his feeding tube has been removed.
When radiation damaged the lymph nodes in his neck, Ron also underwent treatment with lymphedema specialist Wendy Buchholz, OTR/L, CLT-LANA.
“The post-treatment care here is what’s really amazing,” Ron said. “Everyone is so cognizant of the total experience. It’s not just, ‘We’re going to make you well and then good luck.’ They’re concerned with trying to get you back to a normal life.”
Today Ron is living a life as close to normal as possible. As someone who didn’t exercise much before his diagnosis, he now walks between three and five miles every day.
“I owe a debt to this place that I’ll never be able to repay,” Ron stated. “If my story helps other people, I’m happy to share it.”