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Richard "Dick" Ross was told that the red spot at the back of his throat was nothing more than a side effect of his allergies. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that his dentist suggested he get another opinion.
In March 2012, Dick’s dentist identified the spot at the back of this throat to be abnormal using a VELscope. This tool uses a blue light to make the mouth naturally appear florescent and any abnormal tissue appear dark. After his appointment, the dentist referred him to an ENT expert in Saginaw. A week later, his biopsy came in to confirm the news. Dick had cancer. His doctor recommended he look into his treatment options, and that’s how he found Henry Ford.
Just a week later, Dick met with Tamer Ghanem, M.D. to discuss his options. At the first appointment, the doctor gathered the entire team for Dick to meet. He got a binder full of information about the procedure and the contact information for all of the nurses and specialists he would be working with throughout his recovery process.
Dr. Ghanem presented the case to the tumor board, and Dick’s surgery was scheduled for May 12, 2012.
Dick’s cancer was on the left pillar of his tonsils. He underwent two surgeries, back to back. The first used a Da Vinci robot to go down his throat and remove the tumor. After clean margins were confirmed, he had a neck dissection to remove 41 lymph nodes to ensure the cancer had not spread from the original site. The whole process took 4-5 hours. "I am still in awe of the two surgeries," says Dick. "They saved me from having to go through chemo and radiation." Although there were many risks for his procedures, Dick walked away with no side effects. "You can barely see the scar," he said.
Since his surgery, Dick has returned to Henry Ford multiple times over the past five years for checkups. In the first year after his operation, he returned every two months and over the next two years, he returned quarterly. Even though Dick and his wife, Vicki, live out of town, Dick still travels to Henry Ford semiannually. "It was my decision to stay with Henry Ford and their team," he says. "I was in their hands."
Even years later, Dick is still so impressed with the care and professionalism of the staff that worked with him. He noted that he could send an email to any name from that original binder and get a response back quickly. As for Dr. Ghanem, Dick is very grateful for his support over the past few years. "It is very evident that he cares a lot. He is so smart and so knowledgeable."
Dick was fortunate enough to have caught his cancer early, and he expressed the importance of early detection. He has also made it a point for his son and other family members to find dentists that use the VELscope tool. And with the help of his team at Henry Ford, Dick is now officially cancer free. "The team has been great. I can’t say enough good things."