Chris I., head & neck cancer
My name is Chris. I am a personal trainer, radio personality, and cancer coach. I started treatment at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada (CCCN) in March 2012 and have been cancer-free since May 2012. I strongly believe that I beat cancer with the support of my oncologists, family and my drive and motivation to exercise and eat healthy.
In late 2011, I noticed a painless lump on the side of my neck. My primary doctor thought it was a viral infection but it never went away. I was then referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who also didn’t think it was anything serious as I had no difficulty swallowing or eating. In January of 2012 he performed a biopsy, it turned out I was diagnosed with Head and Neck carcinoma. The news came as a shock to my doctor and my family as I had always lived what most would consider a healthy life via exercise and nutrition. I had no history of tobacco use or history of cancer in my family. Regardless of the news, I didn’t let it bring me down; I simply asked my doctor, “What do we do next?”
Since my cancer was found at the base of my tongue, removing it really wasn’t an option. At that point, I was referred to Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada and scheduled an appointment with medical oncologist, Dr. Khoi Dao. During my first appointment with Dr. Dao, it was apparent how little I knew about cancer or treatment. Dr. Dao was very knowledgeable and helped me understand the process and really put me at ease. Following the insertion of a PEG tube (feeding tube in my stomach) along with a few more outpatient surgeries, my treatment began. It consisted of chemotherapy once a week for five weeks and radiation therapy with Dr. Matthew Schwartz five days a week for six weeks. All of this was unfamiliar to me but the staff at CCCN was outstanding. The chemotherapy treatment had no effect on me – I never felt ill, lost hair or had any serious side effects. In fact, a few days after my feeding tube was inserted I went to the gym and was able to run on the treadmill with ease. However, about halfway through my radiation treatment I started to feel the side effects. Food started to taste very bland and it eventually became very difficult to eat. I had severe pain in my throat because I developed sores and burns in the back of my mouth which made me incredibly sensitive to spices, heat, cold etc. As it became more difficult for me to even swallow water, I had a hard time staying hydrated. This led to my wife driving me to the ER more than once as I suffered from dehydration. Ironically, my chemotherapy treatments made me feel better because it was re-hydrating me. At one point, I even asked Dr. Dao for three more weeks of chemotherapy to help me feel better. Thankfully, I had my wife by my side to support me during the process as well. She was so helpful and would make frequent trips to the store to find food that that she hoped I could tolerate. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Even through all my chemo and radiation therapy, I continued to work out every day. If I wasn’t feeling well enough to get to the gym, I would make sure to ride my bike for some sort of exercise. Even though most people thought I should take it easy, Dr. Dao and Dr. Schwartz supported my decision to keep exercising. Throughout my treatment, even when I was weak, I always told myself to keep going for my family. It also helped that the team of nurses at CCCN were so positive and encouraging from day one. They always told me I was going to beat cancer as if it was a matter of fact. They were truly outstanding.
In May 2012 I was told that the cancer was gone and I was in remission. After learning that I was cancer-free, I decided that I needed to help other people going through similar situations so I created a website, www.cancercoachchris.com, where I share stories of motivation, perseverance and the latest in cancer treatment and research. I also started coaching and training people with cancer because I believe that a healthy lifestyle helps beat cancer.
In late May I also created a radio show called Cancer Nation Radio that streams live on the Internet and CCCN’s website every Friday at 10am. The show provides a forum for those touched by cancer.
I still continue to do my CAT and PET Scans as required and maintain good relationships with my Dr.’s and several people at CCCN. If it wasn’t for my motivation to keep exercising and the support from my oncologists and family, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Everyone at CCCN was amazing. They were so accommodating, understanding and compassionate and I am so thankful for them. The practice continues to support me even long after the successful conclusion of my treatment. CCCN is truly a community partner in the journey of cancer.