Kris Williams battled laryngeal cancer - twice. As a 43-year-old, non-drinking, non-smoking patient, Kris came to the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences at UMMC seeking answers for her rapidly worsening voice. Kris scheduled her consultation with Dr. John Schweinfurth, otolaryngologist. Schweinfurth and his team at UMMC removed what turned out to be dysplastic cells from the vocal cord.
Unfortunately, Kris developed a new mass on her vocal cord, but this time she knew where to turn. After Schweinfurth removed the second mass, Kris received a call from him with her results-it was not what they hoped. Kris recalls that Schweinfurth wanted to be the one to tell her that she developed laryngeal cancer; he reassured her that she had a great care team working together on the best treatment for her.
Kris explained, “I'll never forget that. He could have just let the person who called later that day to schedule my CT and MRI tell me the bad news. I'm sure it would have been easier for him.”
At the beginning of her journey, Schweinfurth told Kris he would do everything he could to preserve her voice and rebuild her damaged cord. Through steroid injections, collagen injections, surgery to remove webbing caused by radiation, and voice therapy with Josie Alston, the chief of the Speech Language Pathology division of the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, Dr. Schweinfurth was able to achieve the desired results.
As Schweinfurth treated her cancer, he explained what he was doing and why. He reassured her when she was afraid, prescribed medication to help her deal with anxiety, sent her to a neurologist when she started having migraines, and meticulously examined her cords at each post-cancer appointment. Schweinfurth's diligence and hands-on care allowed him to catch the cancer when it returned two years later.
Kris shared, “I am thankful for his expertise. Because of his brains and his skill, I still sing in the choir, teach Sunday school and cheer at my son's ball games after having over ten surgeries on my vocal cords and twenty-eight rounds of radiation. He caught my cancer very early, and I know that makes a huge difference in the outcome. “I know that Dr. Schweinfurth's primary objective was to destroy my cancer, but he went to great lengths to not destroy me in the process.”