Back to Living “Life as Usual”
Cancer Survivor Learns about Power of Teamwork
By Lisa Schwartz
What began as a simple sore throat turned into the journey of a lifetime for Richard Pollard. In December 2003, his sore throat turned out to be not so simple after all. Richard Pollard had cancer.
Now, one year after his successful treatment for cancer of the uvula and tonsil area, Mr. Pollard remembers, and is grateful for, the comprehensive care he received from the team of professionals at the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Rehabilitation Center.
A positive go-getter by nature, Mr. Pollard decided that nothing was going to get in the way of his enjoyment of life or keep him from being the best man in his son’s wedding, not even cancer. He went into his diagnosis and the Brizel treatment protocol* with a positive attitude that surely helped carry him through some of his most difficult days.
“Mr. Pollard was an ideal candidate for the Brizel protocol,” explains John R. Saunders, Jr., MD, surgeon and Director of the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Rehabilitation Center. “Our experience showed that 90 percent of patients with cancer of the oropharynx could be cured. Despite the difficulty of this regimen, we felt that Mr. Pollard’s positive attitude and family support were key factors in his success.”
Care is a Team Effort
Less than a week after diagnosis, Mr. Pollard had a multidisciplinary team of healthcare and cancer specialists, including physicians, nurses, speech pathologists, and social workers, ready to take action. “After receiving such daunting news, it was nice to know there was a team of professionals ready to go after Richard’s cancer,” recalls his wife, Patsy. “The pre-treatment plan charted every detail for us so we knew what to expect each step of the way,” adds Mr. Pollard. “The entire team spent a lot of time explaining the condition and answering all of our questions. This kind of support and encouragement really helped me through the treatment and the recovery process.”
A man who enjoys biking, jogging and working, Mr. Pollard remained as active as possible throughout his aggressive treatment. As his strength permitted, he took walks and worked a few hours every day at his own business, Pollard’s Towing Company. “I didn’t really think about what I was going through at the time. I just followed the doctors’ orders and did what I had to do to get better, including stopping smoking,” explains Mr. Pollard.
His intensive treatment ended in February 2004 and in May of that same year he had surgery to take out the surrounding infected lymph nodes. In mid-June, Mr. Pollard proudly stood, cancer free, as the best man at his son’s wedding. He credits Dr. Saunders and the Dance Center team with making this goal a reality. “The Dance Center team was always there for me,” states Mr. Pollard. “I am very grateful for the care I received at GBMC.”
Today, Richard Pollard doesn’t really think about the cancer. “I just got back to living my life as usual,” he says. While he still lives with reminders of his treatment, like diminished taste of sweets, dry mouth, and difficulty eating certain foods, he is back at work, active, and enjoying his family and his life. “I’m back to doing everything I did before – and maybe more.”
* an intensive seven- to eight-week chemoradiation therapy treatment program