Ken Shaw could no longer ignore the swollen gland on the side of his neck. At first, he just brushed it off as part of a cold or sore throat, but as weeks went by and it wasn't getting better, he decided to have it checked out by his family physician in Woodbury, NJ.
But he still wasn't worried. After all, Ken never smoked. He was 63, retired, and feeling good. However, when the biopsy came back positive for head and neck cancer, his doctor immediately sent him to head and neck surgeon Gregory Weinstein, MD, at Penn Medicine.
“I had stage 4 cancer, and needed a complicated surgery that involved a graft from my thigh in order to rebuild the back of my throat, but Dr. Weinstein removed the cancer that January, and I started radiation and chemotherapy after that,” remembers Ken. “I really had no time to react to the fact I had cancer because it all moved so fast.”
Ken's team of cancer specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center had planned with him a road to recovery involving therapy and recovery. The journey was going as planned, but that September of 2009, a PET scan showed a spot on his left lung.
The cancer had spread.
This time, Ken met with a thoracic surgeon at Penn, John Kucharczuk, MD, who would remove the tumor from his left lung as well as third of the lung's tissue. Ken began chemotherapy and was on the road to recovery again, until another tumor was found on his right lung and Dr. Kucharczuk removed that as well.
“Everyone at Penn worked together,” says Ken. “I had a team of 10 specialists all focused on me, all talking together, and maintaining communication with my primary care doctor in New Jersey. I didn't need to think about anything but getting well.”
Getting well wasn't easy for Ken, who fought through one more tumor surgery on his back. But he fought and regained some of the strength he once had.
Getting Back On Course
Ken even got back on the golf course, a game he loved and missed, and did some traveling with his wife.
“I used to belong to a local golf club, and I'd travel with my buddies to go play golf at different courses,” he says. “It felt great to be back on the course.”
Today, Ken is cancer-free, but is facing another diagnosis – multiple sclerosis – for which he is being treated at Penn Medicine.
Ken's been through a lot, but he's not giving up.
“I figure, you have to fight it, there isn't anything else to do...I'm not going to sit back and just fade away,” he says. “You don't have to give up. There are always options at Penn Medicine.”
Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within. Hear our stories and find out more today.