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Charlie Osborne quit smoking over 20 years ago because he noticed people getting annoyed with smokers — and was no longer allowed to smoke at work. He also knew it was a health hazard. By quitting the habit, Charlie thought his chances of developing cancer had been diminished. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
In early 2005, at the age of 52, Charlie experienced problems swallowing and had a blocked windpipe. He had trouble sleeping and began losing weight.
"I decided to bypass my local hospital and go straight to Fox Chase."
"I returned to my ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) who I had seen 18 months earlier. He knew immediately something was seriously wrong. When he told me it was cancer, I decided to bypass my local hospital and go straight to Fox Chase," said Charlie. His doctor added, "That's where I would want to go, too."
"Dr. Ridge looked down my throat and said, 'It is most certainly cancer, but we can fix this.'"The following afternoon, Charlie met with John Ridge, MD, PhD, FACS, a Fox Chase surgeon who specializes in cancers of the head and neck. "Dr. Ridge looked down my throat and said, 'It is most certainly cancer, but we can fix this,'" Charlie recalled.
Charlie remained calm and let his wife, Jennifer, do the worrying about the cancer. "With no children, we mean everything to each other," he explained.
After learning that he might be a candidate for laser surgery, Charlie made an appointment with Dr. Ridge's associate, Dr. Miriam Lango, a head and neck surgeon who specializes in transoral laser surgery.
During this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Lango placed a lighted viewing tube into Charlie's mouth, giving her access to the cancer from inside his body. She explained, "I then aimed a carbon dioxide laser at the cancer, which allowed me to break the tumor into small pieces for removal."
Having the tumor removed was helpful because it unblocked Charlie's throat so his breathing and swallowing improved and he was able to avoid a tracheotomy (an opening in the windpipe to help him breath) and a gastrostomy (a feeding tube to give nutrition directly to the stomach).
"It was a huge relief to learn that I didn't have to have traditional open surgery on my neck, which could have possibly left me unable to speak or swallow," said Charlie. "That was my biggest fear. I recovered very quickly from surgery, felt great, and was able to return to work sooner than I expected."
Minimally Invasive Surgery Benefits Many Patients
Head and neck surgeons at Fox Chase use laser surgery whenever possible because it results in less pain, bleeding and scarring. More importantly, such a minimally invasive procedure reduces the need for additional procedures, such as a tracheotomy or feeding tube.
"I believe Fox Chase saved my voice — and quite possibly, my life."
Following his surgery, Charlie began a course of radiation therapy, followed by just two chemotherapy treatments. "I believe Fox Chase saved my voice — and quite possibly, my life," said Charlie, whose thyroid was unexpectedly affected by the radiation and is now managed using medication.
"What I like best at Fox Chase is that everyone treats you so well."
"Because Fox Chase is a cancer hospital, everybody either has cancer, works with people who have cancer, or are visiting someone with cancer. It could not have been a more compassionate place."
"During my treatment, I only had to miss a couple weeks of work. I expected to be out over a month!"
He continued, "I think Fox Chase is the best cancer hospital in the country. Everyone I met was wonderful, from the radiation and lab techs to the nurses and doctors. And I'm not just saying that because my sister works there!"
Charlie and his wife Jennifer have been married for over 35 years. They volunteer at the Keswick Theater in nearby Glenside, Pa. "When we're not at work, we enjoy music and traveling. I feel so lucky to be able to continue doing what I love to do — with the person I love the most!" Charlie explained.