I am Dr. J. Kemper Campbell, an ophthalmologist from Lincoln, Nebraska. I noted a small asymptomatic mass on the right side of my neck in December 2006. When needle biopsy established it to be a poorly differentiated metastatic cancer of unknown origin, I asked a colleague for a referral to the institution best equipped to diagnose throat cancer, and Dr. Kerry Olsen of the Department of ENT at the Rochester Mayo Clinic was suggested.
Dr. Olsen during his initial examination felt that the primary cancer would be found in the right tonsil and a modified radical neck dissection confirmed his impression, Although Dr. Olsen felt that the cancer had been completely removed by the surgery, further neck irradiation was recommended to be certain that no viable cancer cells remained.
After five years of careful followup at the Mayo Clinic, I was told that I had been cured. Most throat cancers are survivable if diagnosed early and treated aggressively. Previously associated with tobacco and alcohol use, squamous cell cancers of the oropharynx are now becoming more prevalent in younger individuals exposed to human papillovirus infections. Certainly no lump found in the throat region should be ignored.
To celebrate the five years between my diagnosis and cure, I published a book of poetry documenting the physical and mental stresses undergone by anyone diagnosed with cancer. The book, High Five, A Cancer Survivor’s Poetic Journey, is available through Amazon and resulted because of the excellent caregivers at the Mayo Clinic.