Ambassador Profiles

The HNCA Ambassadors are dedicated to educating the community-at-large about these cancers. Our ambassadors are cancer patients, survivors and/or caregivers whose inspirational journeys give true meaning to what happens when you are diagnosed with cancer, during and post-treatment.

If your organization is hosting an event, conducting research on patient journeys or designing clinical protocols, contact HNCA at or fill the online request form to inquire about our HNCA Ambassadors’ potential involvement.

Cancer Survivor Ambassadors

Itzhak Brook, M.D. Msc.

Physician and Professor of Pediatrics, Georgetown University School of Medicine and HNCA Board Member
Throat Cancer Survivor
Washington, DC

As a head and neck cancer survivor and a laryngectomee, Dr. Brook feels great satisfaction that his personal experience enables him to help other survivors to speak again and lead a full and satisfying life.

Stephan Cassidy

Occupation – Veteran
Survivor of Stage IV Tongue Cancer
Lutz, FL

After months back and forth, he had a “feeling” something still wasn’t right. He went back to his physician and was then scheduled for a CAT scan. Only 45 minutes after the scan, Stephan was driving home and received a call, requesting him to drive directly to the ENT clinic. He knew then that his life had forever changed.

Hank Deneski

Husband & Father
Survivor of Stage IV Tongue Cancer
Union, OH

“Hank” Deneski, a 14-year survivor of stage IV inoperable squamous cell carcinoma at the base of tongue, has an urgent message for others diagnosed with oral, head and neck cancer: “Take control, or be controlled.”

Ryan Gainor

Lawyer & Husband
Stage IV Tongue Cancer Survivor
Rhode Island

“My cancer journey is not a sad story. I still struggle some days, and the months after my diagnosis were the most trying, difficult, and painful of my life. But my medical team was amazing. My community took care of me. And upon reflection, I have fond memories of the strong friendships I have and the power of family. Friends from around the country came to our house to spend time with me,” said Ryan. “We still talk about those days, and the good times we had in spite of what was going on. But in the end, I was extremely fortunate to receive my diagnosis when I did.”

Steve Holzer

Executive Television Producer/Journalist
Survivor of HPV-attributed Tongue and Neck Cancer
West Hollywood, CA

“Everything moved very fast, because I knew it had to move fast. I was fitted for the radiation mask that I would wear every day during treatment,” explained Steve. “My first radiation treatment was exactly two weeks later. The chemotherapy was once a week, which I did on Tuesdays immediately after radiation. I called them Double Treatment Tuesdays.”

Tony Langford

Certified Public Accountant, Husband & Father
Survivor of Stage IV Tongue and Tonsil Cancer
Lake in the Hills, IL

“I could not have made it through as well as I did without my wife being with me each and every step of the way through this unwanted journey,” explained Tony. “We were carried along by so many others. We have such a deeper sense of appreciation and love for so many, especially for our parents, our brothers, and their families, along with many friends and our church community.”

Stewart Lyman, Ph.D.

Cancer Researcher and Biotechnology Consultant
Survivor of HPV-attributed Tonsil Cancer
Seattle, WA

“Take it from me: cancer prevention is always preferable to cancer treatment. As I’ve transitioned from cancer researcher to cancer patient to cancer survivor, I vow to make every effort to keep others from joining my club,” explained Stewart.

Paul Reitano

Professional Photographer, Husband & Father
Stage III HPV-attributed Tonsil Cancer Survivor
Leeds, MA

He regards his success as a direct result of getting the best possible care at Fox Chase. “I cannot stress this enough: when you are diagnosed with cancer, GO TO A CANCER HOSPITAL!” he urges. “After that, go to another cancer hospital for a second opinion. This can literally mean the difference between life and death, or the quality of your life post treatment.”

Michael West

Litigation Attorney, Husband & Father
Survivor of HPV-attributed Stage IV Throat Cancer
San Diego, CA

“Don’t give up, just keep looking forward. Don’t let cancer be your story, but let it be the catalyst for a transformation into a better you,” encourages Michael.

Anthony White

Chief Patient Experience Office
Stage IV Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer Survivor
Redondo Beach, CA

When faced with navigating an intensive course of more 370 hours of in-patient chemotherapy, 40 radiation treatments, and six surgical procedures on his journey towards wellness, Anthony mustered his strength, persevered, and a new life path awaited him.

Caregiver Ambassadors

Julie Bockoff

Patient Caregiver, Stage IV Tonsil Cancer Patient
Detroit, MI

“Watching someone you love battle cancer is scary and heartbreaking. Dealing with it from 3,000 miles away is awful. My best friend lives in Las Vegas, and I live in Detroit,” explained Julie. “After three weeks of treatment, his voice was gone, and his throat was too sore to talk on the phone. Not being able to see him or talk to him while he was going through treatment was excruciating.”

Kristi Mason

Mother, wife, and caregiver
Caregiver to Husband, Stage III throat cancer patient
Derry, NH

“I was running an apothecary out of my kitchen, brought on by the nausea of chemo and the third degree burns on both sides of my husband’s neck from the aggressive radiation,” explained Kristi. “To keep track of all the medicines, I would line each one up on our counter with a clipboard under each that highlighted instructions on when to take it and to jot down the day and time he took it. It was the only way I could keep track of everything.”

1-866-792-HNCA (4622)

HNCA provides me with the information and support I need. It also provides me with a medium to serve as a role model to others diagnosed with head and neck cancer.”Jason Mendelsohn
Stage-4 HPV-related oral cancer survivor

Thank You to Our Corporate and Community Partners