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Charlie Osborne - Patient Story

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"I decided to bypass my local hospital and go straight to Fox Chase."

— Charlie Osborne, Larynx Patient

I quit smoking over 20 years ago because I noticed people getting annoyed with smokers — and was no longer allowed to smoke at work. I also knew it was a health hazard. By quitting the habit, I thought my chances of developing cancer had been diminished. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

In early 2005, at the age of 52, I experienced problems swallowing and had a blocked windpipe. I had trouble sleeping and began losing weight.

I returned to my ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) who I had seen 18 months earlier. He knew immediately something was seriously wrong. When he told me it was cancer, I decided to bypass my local hospital and go straight to Fox Chase. My doctor even said, "That's where I would want to go, too."

The following afternoon, I met with John Ridge, MD, PhD, FACS, a Fox Chase surgeon who specializes in cancers of the head and neck. Dr. Ridge looked down my throat and said, 'It is most certainly cancer, but we can fix this.'

I did my best to remain calm and let my wife, Jennifer, do the worrying about the cancer. With no children, we mean everything to each other.

After learning that I might be a candidate for laser surgery, I made an appointment with Dr. Ridge's associate, a head and neck surgeon who specializes in transoral laser surgery.

During this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon placed a lighted viewing tube into my mouth, giving access to the cancer from inside my body. The surgeon explained to me, "I then aimed a carbon dioxide laser at the cancer, which allowed me to break the tumor into small pieces for removal."

Having the tumor removed was helpful because it unblocked my throat so my breathing and swallowing improved and I was able to avoid a tracheotomy (an opening in the windpipe to help you breath) and a gastrostomy (a feeding tube to give nutrition directly to the stomach).

It was a huge relief to learn that I didn't have to have traditional open surgery on my neck, which could have possibly left me unable to speak or swallow. That was my biggest fear. I recovered very quickly from surgery, felt great, and was able to return to work sooner than I expected.

Following my surgery, I began a course of radiation therapy, followed by just two chemotherapy treatments. My thyroid was unexpectedly affected by the radiation and is now managed using medication. I believe Fox Chase saved my voice — and quite possibly, my life.

Because Fox Chase is a cancer hospital, everybody either has cancer, works with people who have cancer, or are visiting someone with cancer. It could not be a more compassionate place.

I think Fox Chase is the best cancer hospital in the country. Everyone I met was wonderful, from the radiation and lab techs to the nurses and doctors. And I'm not just saying that because my sister works there!

My wife and I have been married for over 35 years. We volunteer at the Keswick Theater in nearby Glenside, Pa. When we're not at work, we enjoy music and traveling. I feel so lucky to be able to continue doing what I love to do — with the person I love the most!

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