Jerry B., North Carolina, USA

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Southwestern Regional Medical Center

In 2003, at age 52, Jerry became hoarse—nothing new for him. For years he had suffered from allergies. The symptoms had always disappeared with treatment. However, this time the hoarseness persisted.

Jerry works as a captain of a rescue squad, a deputy sheriff, and a part-time teacher at the community college, so he does a lot of talking. His doctor said, "You've just got a growth on your vocal cord. I see it with people who strain their vocal cords. We can go in and scrape that off, and everything should be okay."

Jerry booked and appointment the surgery, but the doctor chose instead to conduct a biopsy. The result: a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma, stage I. Jerry's local doctors offered him the options of surgery and radiation, but the physicians didn't seem to be communicating, and some of the risks they described gave Jerry pause. Damage to his carotid arteries and salivary glands was mentioned, as was complete removal of his vocal cords. Jerry realized he might have to speak through a stoma for the rest of his life. "Well, we (Jerry and his wife, Toni) got out of that doctor's office and we didn't look back," he says.

While searching for sources of a second option, Toni discovered Cancer Treatment Centers of America on the internet. Within days, Jerry and Toni were on an airplane to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His CTCA surgeon offered a different assessment than Jerry had been given at home. His cancer was more advanced—stage III—which meant surgery any less drastic than total removal of the voice box was ill-advised. "My recommendation," said Jerry's CTCA doctor, "is to do chemo and radiation at the same time, and we'll beat this tumor."

Jerry saw hope in that option, so he accepted the treatment plan and moved into the CTCA guesthouse for six weeks. While staying there, he completed 33 rounds of radiation and six rounds of chemo. He went home and then returned to Tulsa for his four-week checkup. At that time, his doctor had good news for him. Jerry's tumor was gone, and he could regain full use of his voice. Now, at age 61, he’s healthy and well, enjoying—among other things—yard work and motorcycle riding.

When asked about traveling for healthcare, Jerry acknowledges that moving away from that comfort zone called home can be difficult. Travel delays are inevitable, and patience is essential. But the most important consideration for the cancer patient is what Jerry calls "the light at the end of the tunnel." In Jerry's opinion, the most important element is achieving a level of comfort with doctors and their recommendations. "I felt comfortable and felt that CTCA was the place for me, and it all worked out," Jerry says.

I talk with people across the United States who are trying to make up their mind about whether they want to go to CTCA or be treated locally. I tell them that the first thing is you have to be comfortable, either with your local doctor or with the CTCA doctors. That's got to be your mindset: having good communication and a good feeling about what you're doing. You don't have anything to lose by getting a second opinion. If you don't feel comfortable wherever you've done that, I wouldn't stay there.

Last updated on 6 December 2015