Stephan Cassidy

Veteran and Survivor of Stage IV Tongue Cancer; Lutz, FL

In the Spring of 2016, Stephan, age 53, was diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer, which had spread locally to two lymph nodes on one side of his neck. It took several months to diagnose his original cancer. The only warning sign Stephan had was a persistent, though intermittent, sore throat. He had several doctor appointments, including two separate occurrences with an Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) whereby he underwent an endoscopy. Each time finding nothing.

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.

Upon returning to the ENT clinic, he underwent another endoscopy and was scheduled for a surgical biopsy the following day. The biopsy confirmed cancer. He soon began seven weeks of daily radiation, with several cycles of chemotherapy. Three months later, on November 2, 2016, a PET scan indicated he was cancer free. He thought he was done.

In May 2017, seven months after the PET scan and about a year after his original diagnosis, Stephan was playing golf and felt a minor twinge in his back. He thought he tweaked a muscle but the discomfort persisted. He sought out rest, chiropractic, neurology, massages, and multiple physical therapy sessions. Nothing worked.

Stephan expressed his concerns to his doctor that something again didn’t feel right, just like the original throat cancer didn’t feel right. He shared that he thought it might be cancer. The next night, he underwent the scan and received a call the following morning with the news that he had a ‘destructive soft tissue mass’ on his rib, lung, and liver.

Biopsies and scans followed, confirming the diagnosis. Ironically, the PET scan confirming the metastatic reoccurrence was one year to the day, November 2, 2017, from my clean scan after the tongue cancer.

Stephan has completed 21 weeks of a triad of chemotherapy and immunotherapy for metastatic cancer on his ribs and liver. After completing the 1st line treatment protocol, and another PET scan. The cancers are both in check and haven’t grown or spread.

“This treatment was a cakewalk compared to the throat cancer treatment. I was able to work the whole time, except on treatment days as that’s an all-day affair” explained Stephan.

“Fortunately, overall, I feel pretty good. Treatments have been steady but bearable with no significant side effects or advancing developments. Just keeping time for now.”

For further information on Stephan and his journey, click here.

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I’m not a parent, nor would I ever tell parents what’s best for their own children. But if I was a parent, I would have my daughters and sons vaccinated against HPV. It might save their life.Steve Holzer
Survivor of HPV-attributed Tongue and Neck Cancer

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