A Patient Stays Positive with Help From His "Upbeat” Team

September 20, 2021

Rodney Tabor noticed a knot in his throat that he says gradually grew to the size of a goose egg. “It was really hard to swallow,” he recalls. Thinking it was just a swollen tonsil, 62-year-old Tabor waited a few weeks before going to his primary care physician to see what was going on.

His doctor referred him to St. Mary’s otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) Timothy Jones, MD, who performed a biopsy, which confirmed Tabor had squamous cell carcinoma – a type of tonsil cancer.

Rodney Tabor with Shari Ard, receptionist at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center Cancer Center.
Rodney Tabor with Shari Ard, receptionist at the St. Mary's Regional Medical Center Cancer Center.

After the diagnosis, Tabor was referred to oncologist Sanjaykumar Hapani, MD, at the St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center Cancer Center to learn about his treatment plan options. Dr. Hapani started him on a combination of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. “I had 36 radiation treatments and seven chemotherapy infusions,” he says. “I was being treated every day, five days a week.”

According to the American Cancer Society®, about 54,010 new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed each year. These cancers occur most often in the tongue, tonsils and oropharynx, gums, floor of the mouth and other parts of the mouth. They are more than twice as common in men as in women and on average, people diagnosed with these cancers are age 63. One in five cases occur in patients under the age of 55.

Keeping His Spirits Up Through Treatment

For Tabor, treatment proved to be very challenging, but he says the staff at the Cancer Center supported him through the journey. “St. Mary’s has the best nurses hands down. They made treatment tolerable with their upbeat attitude. They didn’t let me dwell on the downside of treatment and were quick to smile and encourage me.”

Tabor says he also appreciates the care provided by Dr. Hapani. “He kept me informed, was easy to talk with and has a very good demeanor.”

Now finished with treatment, Tabor is returning to his daily routines of doing chores around the house, working in his flowerbeds and feeding the birds and squirrels.  He recognizes and is thankful for all who supported him during this challenging time. “The prayers and concern showed from family, friends and the people from Cleveland Baptist Church – who I didn’t even know – meant a lot.”

When asked what advice he would offer a person who has just received a cancer diagnosis, Tabor says, “Do what the nurses and doctors tell you to do and keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get through it.”