Community Cancer Center teams up to help West Union man fight tonsil cancer
“I wouldn’t recommend cancer to anybody,” says 67-year-old Roger Gamm. “But if you have it, by golly, I can’t think of a better place to go than the Nassif Community Cancer Center!”
Gamm was the fire chief of the West Union Volunteer Fire Department in August 2017 when he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in his right tonsil. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with some form of oral cancer (tonsils, tongue or other parts of the mouth) last year.
Dr. Bharat Jenigiri, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Hematology & Oncology, says head and neck cancer patients like Gamm typically need a team approach.
“The team includes the ear, nose and throat specialist, a medical oncologist like myself, a radiation oncologist, dietitians, a speech pathologist, palliative care for symptom management, plus a care coordinator,” explains Dr. Jenigiri. “We discuss cases together and treatment decisions are made as a group. The care coordinator makes sure appointments are scheduled together so it’s easier for the patient.”
For Gamm, treatment consisted of surgery to remove his tonsils, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“Once radiation starts, your throat is so sore you can’t even swallow water,” says Gamm. “I was in treatment from September 2017 till early November, then had the feeding tube removed. I spent the winter recovering and now everything is pretty much back to normal.”
He adds, “I can’t say enough about my team. If we had questions, they had answers. My care coordinator, Connie Dietiker, went out of her way to put my appointments together so everything could be done on one day, which saved us a lot of trips. The speech therapist, Jennie Pint, helped me rebuild muscles and the dietitians, Beth Beckett and Mary Beth Peiffer, made sure I was getting the nutrition I needed.”
Gamm admits he and his wife Vicki didn’t know what to expect when he was diagnosed with cancer. “We were naïve about the whole process. But everyone worked so hard to take care of us. You know you’re getting the best help.”
Dr. Jenigiri agrees. “We have a great team and we work together for the benefit of every patient. We have the capability to treat most cancers here, we have access to clinical trials if a patient needs one, and we can consult with Mayo Clinic if it’s a complicated case. In fact, if a patient chooses Mayo for their initial evaluation, the physicians there usually send the patient back to us for treatment.”
“You get 100 percent support,” says Gamm. “I want the wonderful folks at the Community Cancer Center to know how thankful I am. I’m sure I wouldn’t be here today without them.”
Get connected with the resources you need to win the fight against cancer. Call (319) 368-5514 or visit us at communitycancercenter.org.