August 13, 2019
Longtime KCTV5 sports anchor Neal Jones was "absolutely terrified" when he learned the pain he was feeling in his throat and mouth was caused by head and neck cancer. He was diagnosed with stage 4 oropharyngeal cancer. And he began looking for the right place to receive treatment.
"I spoke with a physician friend who had gone through cancer treatment," Neal says, "and with his help, I discovered the best specialist for this type of cancer was right in my backyard."
Neal was told to make an appointment with James Coster, MD, a radiation oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center in Overland Park.
"I have my wife and children. And I want to be present in their lives," says Neal. That's why he pursued the most aggressive treatment available for his diagnosis. A multidisciplinary approach to patient care ensured that a team of specialists reviewed his condition. They developed a treatment plan that included an intense schedule of chemotherapy and daily radiation. No surgery was required.
Neal's treatment followed the standards of care provided for oral cancer, Dr. Coster explains, adding that treatment is very hard on the body. "Most patients lose their ability to taste and find it difficult, if not impossible, to swallow," he adds. "Some, like Neal, need a feeding tube to protect them nutritionally during treatment."
Yet Neal found his experience was much better than he expected. "Nobody wants to get cancer, but this was the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances," he says. "I never felt like I was fighting this by myself. The entire staff at the cancer center was wonderful. I was encouraged to ask questions, and they answered every one of them."
A year and a half after his treatment ended, Neal has given a great deal of thought to his experience. "You feel alone when you have cancer," he says. "The love of your family and your work can't beat cancer."
Instead, "you've got to rely on your medical team to make the best decisions," he continues. "I never doubted I was choosing the right cancer center. For this level of care, I would have driven 8 hours, instead of the 8 minutes from my house!"
His experience has also made him an advocate for others with head and neck cancer.
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