The week of April 12-18th is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week and Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat in Sioux Falls is offering free screenings on April 15th. A Mitchell man who had a persistent cough credits that screening for saving his life.
Chuck Gibson of Mitchell came to see Dr. Bethany Helvig at Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat in Sioux Falls after suffering with flu-like symptoms for at least 6 months.
Dr. Helvig says, "When I first saw Chuck he was having difficulty swallowing, he was gagging at night, coughing on his own secretions. His voice changed, he'd lost weight, all red flags. When I looked down his throat nothing looked normal."
In January of 2009, after several biopsies, Dr. Helvig discovered Chuck had advanced cancer of his larynx, the voice box.
Chuck says, "At first she thought she could take just part of the voice box out and I would be able to talk without a prosthesis. But once she got in there, she found it was in the wall of the voice box and clear down the throat so she had to take it all. Now I speak with a prosthesis."
What lead to Chuck's cancer? No doubt several things. Chuck served 3 tours in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange and asbestos on his ship and he has been a life long smoker. I asked him when he broke the habit and he said the day Dr. Helvig told him he had cancer. He's not bitter about anything he's been through. Instead he's so very grateful to Dr. Helvig for being alive.
Chuck says, "Absolutely! As far as I'm concerned that woman is an angel."
There is no doubt life has changed significantly for Chuck and his wife including major surgery, 7 weeks of radiation and a voice prosthesis he has to push on to be heard. He knows he doesn't sound the same, but that's not going to stop him from talking and for those who know him we are glad about that.
Chuck smiles and says, "My talking finger gets tired so I have to relax it."
Losing your voice might be considered tragic, but because that voice of reason inside Chuck's head was screaming to get screened his story doesn't end in tragedy.
The free screenings at Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat on Thursday April 15th are first come, first serve, by appointment only.
They go from 9:00am - 4:00pm. Call 605.336.3503 or 1.888.336.3503 to schedule an appointment. You can also click on: www.midwestent.com