A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Patient story: Birder, food lover and now, throat cancer survivor

philip brown throat cancer

Philip Brown is getting back to his life after the completion of his chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for throat cancer.

On October 4, 2021, Philip Brown noticed a swollen area on the right side of his neck, just below his ear. After an appointment with his doctor and an ear, nose and throat specialist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, it was determined he had throat cancer.

A scan later confirmed that the cancer was contained to Philip’s right tonsil and lymph node. He received his first chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment on October 21, 2021 through Cancer Care & Research at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

“The thing that impressed me most was the team. I went into the cancer treatments and I didn’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “These people made me feel special and made me feel like I was receiving the best care in the world.”

Brown can list off more than 10 names when talking about his care team, but he especially appreciated his oncology nurse navigator, Rachel Drexler. An oncology nurse navigator is a registered nurse who guides patients and their caregivers through their cancer journey. The navigator can provide patients with education, emotional support and other support resources.

“When you first find out that you have cancer, and you begin your cancer treatments, it’s scary.  You really don’t know what to expect.  Rachel was a great resource.  If there were any questions or problems – one call to Rachel was all it took,” Philip said.

Side effects of treatment

Less than a month into his radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments, Philip’s throat became very sore and he lost his sense of taste.

His registered dietitian, Chrisanne Urban, and speech pathologist, Lisa Bast, had been preparing him for this moment.

“I was a little skeptical of what they were saying, but by the middle of November, I knew what they were preparing me for,” Brown said.

With loss of appetite and a very sore throat, he began to lose weight.

Brown could tolerate high-energy protein drinks. His wife, Mary, also found out that he could tolerate scrambled eggs and ravioli pretty well. Further into treatments, Brown had less of an appetite and more of a difficult time swallowing. It was important to maintain his swallowing ability and power through the prescribed treatments.

Shortly after his chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments were done, the cumulative effects of treatments kicked in and swallowing became very painful, so he had to receive IV fluids to stay hydrated.

His radiation oncologist, Dr. Warren Olds, was able to prescribe a mouthwash that helped relieve some of the pain in his mouth. He also received an anti-inflammatory steroid that really helped with the pain from Dr. Chady Leon, his medical oncologist/hematologist.

“Immediately after Dr. Leon prescribed that pain reliever, I filled the prescription at the Marshfield Medical Center drug store.  I took one of the pills right away and half way home I started feeling better,” Philip said. “It was quite a relief to finally be relieved of some pain.”

Life after throat cancer treatments

At his lowest point, Brown had lost more than 40 pounds during cancer treatments. It is taking some time, but his taste is slowly coming back. He is looking forward to being able to taste Mary’s cooking again.

“One of the brightest moments through this whole ordeal was the loving support of Mary. I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this without her,” Brown said.

He has started to become active again, including swimming on a regular basis. Brown also joined a program at his local YMCA to help gain back some muscle tone and increase energy levels that he lost during his treatments.

He is especially excited to get back to living life, feeding the birds and enjoying the outdoors.

Despite this, Brown knows there are still hills to climb. He has to come back periodically to have scans taken of the area where he had throat cancer to make sure it stays away.

There is one thing he knows for sure – he is going to continue to rely on his Cancer Care & Research team at Marshfield Medical Center in Marshfield.

“The team made me feel special – like I was receiving the best care in the world,” he said.

One Response
  1. Apr 14, 2022

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