Home>>Otolaryngology>>Patient Testimonial: Joseph Reed, Age 66, Cancer Patient
Joseph Reed, Age 66, Cancer Patient

When 66-year-old Joseph Reed went to his doctor for a routine physical, he never imagined the appointment would change his life. His physician discovered that one of his lymph nodes on the right side of his neck was enlarged, and sent him to have it evaluated. Soon afterward, Joseph was diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma.

Joseph underwent further workup including a tonsillectomy by Dr. Amanda Toole at a local hospital he was referred to. The cancer was found to have arisen from the right tonsil and spread to the lymph node on the right side of his neck. Before proceeding with further treatment including surgery, Joseph conducted his own research and decided to call Karmanos Cancer Institute to make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Ho-Sheng Lin of the Wayne State University Physician Group. After meeting with Dr. Lin, Joseph and his wife felt confident they wanted him to do the surgery.

“My wife and I liked him so much as far as his manner, professionalism and the whole Karmanos experience that we knew right away he was the one to do my surgery,” he said. “During our consultation he asked me if Thursday would be acceptable for the surgery whereas the other hospital wanted me to wait three weeks. Dr. Lin adjusted his schedule to put the patient first, and that was very reassuring.”

Joseph says Dr. Lin displayed compassion, understanding and a gentle bedside manner.

“He was kind and optimistic yet he didn’t sugar coat reality,” Joseph said. “He listened to my questions, explained everything thoroughly and I had full confidence in him.”

Three weeks after his tonsillectomy, Dr. Lin performed a tonsillar resection of Joseph’s right and left tonsillar spaces, as well as his tongue and throat areas using the da Vinci® robotic surgical system. Knowing that time was of the essence in Joseph’s case, Dr. Lin then performed a modified radial neck dissection to remove the lymph nodes in his right neck including the large lymph node which had grown to more than two inches in size. Using his expertise of the da Vinci® robot, Dr. Lin was able to successfully remove the residual cancer from the right tonsil region by operating through the mouth.

Following surgery, Dr. Harold Kim and Dr. Ammar Sukari of Karmanos worked as part of Dr. Lin’s team to create a comprehensive plan of chemotherapy and radiation. This complete removal of cancer in the right tonsil allowed Dr. Kim, a radiation oncologist, to decrease the radiation dose to the back of his throat and thereby reduce the side effects associated with higher doses of radiation treatment. Given the aggressive nature of the large metastatic lymph node, Joseph also received chemotherapy from Dr. Sukari to maximize his survival outcome.

“My doctors were meeting on a weekly basis and monitoring my progress every step of the way,” said Joseph.

He endured the side-effects of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which took a toll on his body.

“I would go in there some days in really tough shape and was in constant need of pain medication,” said Joseph. “But Dr. Lin would always find a way to show positive progression toward my goal of being disease-free.”

Joseph received his last radiation therapy session in January of 2012. After much anticipation, a follow-up CT Scan in May came back clear, and Joseph and his wife breathed a sigh of relief.

“Dr. Lin approached my case with full force. He brought his whole team together and he healed me,” said Joseph.

When asked if there is anything he would do differently about his treatment, Joseph emphasized the importance of early detection and prevention.

“I think I really underestimated what the full scope of this cancer would be – it was life changing,” said Joseph. “Everything is about early detection and prevention, and Dr. Lin has done a great job of helping me understand what I need to do to stay ahead of the cancer.”

Joseph added that he had tremendous spiritual support from his family and church community.

Dr. Lin and Joseph will meet regularly to monitor his health with the goal of achieving five years cancer free. And Joseph isn’t taking his end of the deal lightly. He says he’s following the recommendations of his doctors by eating healthier and exercising.

“I am gaining strength by exercising on a daily basis and my healing continues to be on track,” said Joseph. “We are being proactive, but if anything does come back we will be aware of it and ready for it.”

Joseph is currently doing well and living cancer-free.