Father, Interior Designer and Tongue Cancer Survivor; Boca Raton, FL
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Ken was raised in a comfortable middle-class home with his older sister. His father was a salesman and his mother was a school teacher. Both his parents smoked, which seemed normal in those days. At his earliest age, Ken thought the habit was disgusting and never smoked, not once. Sadly, his father died of lung cancer, and his mother passed away after suffering a massive heart attack.
In 1984, Ken was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his lower left back and underwent radical surgery, leaving him with a huge scar.
His journey with head and neck cancer began one morning in October of 2017. After showering, he was shaving and discovered a small lump on the right side of his neck, about the size of a small grape. It was not painful nor discolored, but Ken knew immediately, as a cancer survivor, that it was something that had to be investigated.
Within a matter of days, he had a medical appointment with his Primary Care Physician, who performed a physical exam and initially thought the lump was a small cyst. To be safe, however, his physician recommended an ultrasound, which was inconclusive, and then the lump was biopsied, which was also inconclusive.
Ken was referred to an ENT specialist, and by that time, the lump had grown into two lumps. The ENT performed a nasal scope of his Ken’s throat and discovered a small mass at the base of Ken’s tongue, deep in his throat. Certain that the lumps were malignant, Ken was referred to a “superb head and neck surgeon,” who “ended up saving his life.”
He became a patient of the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center and underwent surgical treatment in December 2017. A mass at the base of his tongue was removed robotically. Two enlarged malignant lymph nodes were surgically removed from his neck along with a portion of his right carotid artery.
After three weeks of recovery, Ken began further treatment, which included seven weekly chemotherapy infusions and 33 radiation treatments. His last radiation treatment was on March 21, 2018 — a date he will never forget.
“The radiation side effects were horrendous, including loss of taste and smell, inability to swallow, a feeding tube for nine weeks, acute dry mouth, major weight loss, extreme fatigue and lymphedema in my neck,” explained Ken.
“I realize how very lucky I am to have received, and still receive, the wonderful care and support from the fantastic team at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Their devotion and dedication to their patients is outstanding. I don’t think I could have gotten better care anywhere else. I am extremely grateful to my son and daughter-in-law for their concern and devotion during this entire episode,” added Ken.
The negative side effects of his treatments have either lessened or disappeared. However, a few remain, and Ken deals with them on a daily basis, which he says is “not too difficult given the alternative.” He still receives weekly lymphedema occupational therapy and will continue to do so as long as possible as it is incredibly helpful.
“For me, having a positive attitude is my key to a successful recovery.”