A Living Testament

More than a year after his surgery to remove a rare cancer in his neck, Demetrius Johnson reflects on his experience at UMGCCC and his prediction for the future of cancer care at the new Stoler Center.

Demetrius Johnson always played by the rules, especially when it came to his health. He ate well, exercised five days a week, and got annual checkups—that is until the Covid-19 pandemic limited access to health care across his hometown of Eleuthera, an island in the Bahamas. In January 2021, when his community began to reopen, Demetrius went to his doctor and mentioned a painless lump on the right side of his neck. A biopsy later revealed it was a malignant tumor.

“I can’t explain how it feels for anybody else; but when I heard the news, I was just like, huh? Are you serious?” explains Demetrius, who was 42 years old at the time of his diagnosis and is a married father of two children.

His sister, Donnica Major, is the senior operations manager in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She encouraged Demetrius to travel to Baltimore and meet with Rodney Taylor, MD, chief of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UMMC. Demetrius did not hesitate to book a flight.

After a thorough examination and tests, Dr. Taylor and his team confirmed the diagnosis. On March 30, 2021, they performed a challenging 14-hoursurgery on Demetrius to remove the rare cancer. Following the surgery, he also completed six weeks of radiation therapy. “The quality of care that I received from the entire team at the University of Maryland is second to none,” Demetrius says. “I sing their praises every day.”