Janice Davidson was sitting in the break room at work in early March 2016 when she felt a lump on her neck. Unsure what it was, Davidson decided not to take any chances. She scheduled an appointment with Brian Ray, MD, her UnityPoint Clinic family physician.
“He said he was glad I came in right away,” recalls Davidson, 56, of Cedar Rapids. Dr. Ray referred her to Michael Telisak, MD, with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Ear, Nose and Throat. Within three days, Davidson learned she had squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.
Davidson’s disease is one of several oral cancers that begin in moist surfaces such as the mouth, tongue, lips and gums. Most oral cancers result from tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff.
Davidson, a former smoker, says her cancer was identified as Stage 4. But she adds, “I feel blessed. It’s amazing the way my doctors, nurses and everyone took me under their wing and took care of me.”
The Community Cancer Center’s collaborative approach surrounds patients like Janice Davidson with care. “They are so comforting,” Davidson says, “and they all communicate so well together.”
Her support team includes oncology social workers Dana Anderson and Nancy Hagensick, who provide education, insight and emotional support. Explains Davidson, “They take the pressure off me. They are there for me no matter what.”
Davidson says the circle of care and concern extends to everyone she has encountered on her cancer journey, from Mary Beth Peiffer, the dietitian who ensures she gets enough calories, to Speech Therapist Jennie Pint, who’s helping her strengthen her swallowing. Davidson’s care team also provides support and encouragement for daughter Jennifer, her mother’s primary caregiver.
As Davidson prepares to return to work after weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she has learned to celebrate small victories—and her Community Cancer Center support team celebrates with her. “They jump up and down for me when it’s good,” she explains, “and they cry with me, too.”
Janice Davidson acknowledges receiving a serious cancer diagnosis is a shock, but adds the Community Cancer Center has made it easier to face. “No matter where you go here,” she says, “you get love and kindness.”