michael abramson Michael Abramson was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil in October, 2009. He was successfully treated at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center by the multidisciplinary Head and Neck Oncology team, including medical oncologist Kevin Cullen, MD, radiation oncologist Mohan Suntha, MD, and surgical oncologist Duane Sewell, M.D.. He shared his story with our readers.

It was quite a shock when I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in October '09.  What I thought was a swollen gland after coming down with the flu, turned out to be cancer that had spread to my lymph node.  Upon recommendation from my internist, a visit to an ear, nose, and throat specialist made the diagnosis.  Where do you begin when you get this type of news?  I knew I needed to do my research and look for the best care.

First, my wife and I went to the hospital closest to home, met with the doctors there and they confirmed the diagnosis. At the same time, my wife, who is involved in the medical field, called the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She had heard about a study going on and wanted to see if I could get enrolled. I did not qualify for the study, but the research physician in charge suggested I call Dr. [Kevin] Cullen at the University of Maryland.

Next, my dermatologist, whom I've known for many years, recommended Dr. Cullen.  One of my business clients, who is involved with the Lance Armstrong Foundation and contacted them on my behalf, also suggested I contact the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.  Finally, my wife called the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which is one of the most well respected institutions. When she told the director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program there that we weren't prepared to move to Houston for eight weeks or longer, he, too, directed us to the University of Maryland's Head and Neck Cancer Program, identifying it as one of the best in the country. So ALL roads and recommendations led us directly to Dr. Cullen and his team at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.

From our first visit, the care was exceptional. The interdisciplinary team that met with us on our first visit, followed us through this difficult journey with the best protocol, state of the art technology, compassion, and ultimately, the best outcome. We knew we could put all our trust in their hands, and this is very comforting when going through this type of ordeal.

Every day we drove from Virginia to Baltimore because we knew it was worth having the best team on our side. When your doctors tell you that they can not only treat your cancer, but cure it, you’ve gotta feel good about your decision and we did and still do…every day, week, month, and now over a year later. 

We felt like our entire team, including all the nurses and staff, were like family. They were all so caring that we actually looked forward to seeing them every day. They understood that not only is the physical care they provide important, but the mental side is just as important to successful treatment and outcomes. When you get the right team around you, you know it’s all going to work out and you’ll get through it somehow.

Although this was one of the most challenging times of my life, the decision to have my care at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center was the best decision of my life!

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