Survivor Mike Angel shares his cancer journey and the advice he has for others currently fighting the disease.
What are the events that led up to your cancer diagnosis?
I had a case of what I thought was strep throat that did not improve after treatment. I decided to make an appointment with my internist, who suggested it may be an abscess and that I see a dentist if the redness and sore throat did not improve in a couple of weeks. A similar situation occurred during my visit to the dentist. With nothing showing up on x-rays, he advised that I return in two weeks if my symptoms did not improve. I decided to visit an ear nose and throat specialist who diagnosed me with tonsil cancer after examining my throat. A tissue sample confirmed my diagnosis. Unfortunately, I lost several months with the other health care providers trying to determine what was wrong, but at least I had a diagnosis and could move forward with treatment.
What treatment did you receive?
Over seven weeks, I received 35 rounds of radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy. I was initially scheduled to have a third round of chemotherapy, but after experiencing the side effect of weakness and a 55-pound weight loss, I was advised not to complete the third round.
How and where did you receive support during your treatment and recovery?
My wife is a cancer survivor as well and was a wonderful support system to me.
What advice do you have for someone navigating their treatment and recovery journey?
Be sure to listen to your doctors and their instructions related to your treatment. For someone with a diagnosis similar to mine, I would say that tonsil cancers often cause severe weight loss and weakness. Also, I would recommend doing your best to try to eat and swallow normally for as long as you can. I was able to eat and swallow normally for the first five weeks of treatment, but eventually had to go on a feeding tube after radiation. Your swallowing mechanism and muscles can become very weak after treatment and during recovery, which can cause issues to continue. I did my best to try to eat and swallow after the feeding tube, which I believe was helpful.
How far out are you from treatment?
I am 14 months out of my treatment.
Closing thoughts: Do not hesitate to talk to others and do research on treatment opinions. Some tonsil cancers can have a high survival rate. The treatment is difficult, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.