To celebrate my healing from cancer and to let others know there is hope.
January 21, 2013
The Background: Sometime in early to mid 2011 I noticed a lump on the right side of my neck. I figured it was a swollen lymph node from a cold or something. Over the next year this lump never went away - and I found myself praying and hoping it was nothing. The lump would grow and shrink - but never went away.In early August 2012 I decided I needed to find a "family doctor" and get established. I needed my "over 50" checkup done so I located Dr. Guirguis in Celebration, Florida. He ordered some blood work, and checked the lymph node, then told me to get back when the blood work was done. What follows is a true recounting of what transpired after this initial consultation.
Aug. 27, 2012 – Family Doc for review of blood work and yearly checkup. Referred to Dr. Lehman (ENT) for lymph node enlargement
Sept 28 – Met with Dr. Lehman (ENT). Ordered CT Scan and Fine Needle Aspiration of lymph nodes, right side. Also prescribed anti-biotics in case it was an infection of some type.
Oct. 23 – CT Scan, then Ultrasound and "fine needle aspiration" at Florida Hospital - Celebration, FL
Nov 2 – visit Dr. Lehman for results of tests. Diagnosis: Squamous Cell Cancer in lymph nodes. Primary location unknown. Checked throat thru my nose and saw something. Ordered Biopsy and PET Scan. Likely from HP Virus as I am healthy, young, non-smoker and not heavy drinker.Sometime during this month (early), I was on my back deck doing stuff to keep my mind off the bad news. I had the local Christian radion station Z88.3 on the radio. I was standing on a ladder, not paying any attention when I heard a lady's voice say "Ask whatsoever you will and God will give it to you." It cut thru me and I began to weep. As the lady continued her thing, I began to ask God to heal me, and to let me stay around and see my kids kids grow older. I heard the Holy Spirit say "Are you sure? There is a lot of heartache coming." I said YES! I will do my best to show everyone you - if I am still here. I heard Him say "OK". and I felt clearly that I would be healed.... but over the next few months it became very hard to believe.... To help me believe and have faith I made this quote my wallpaper on my phone and computer to remind me... John 15:7I spent more than a few nights hugging my wife and crying that I did not want to die. April would support me and encourage me and remind me of two major things: Doc said "treatable and curable" and "Google is not your friend".Over the coming months, as I learned some new info, I would pray over my body while in the shower. I began to curse HPV, curse cancer, and declare healing to my tongue and lymph nodes. I put into practice all the things I heard and read over the years. These times were the good spiritual times - when I felt that I was in control with God.Then there were the times when I would see a sunset, or a bird flying or think of my kids and grandkids and simply breakdown and cry because I did not know if I would ever see them again. These were the bad times. The times when I felt I was so alone in the universe.Dr. Lehman said early on that this cancer was "treatable and cureable". The bad part of that was when I would try to research things - things would come up in Google like "85% cure rate" "if its in lymph nodes, thats a bad sign" "55% cure rate" "my husband died of ..." I learned to only read University studies, and other documented info. I searched for the positive, not the negative.Nov 8 – PET Scan
Nov 13 - Met Radiation Oncologist Dr. Montejo. Reviews PET scan results. Positive for lymph node area cancer. He describes possible options. Return to see him after the tongue biopsy.
Nov 27 – Biopsy of base of tongue performed by Dr. Lehman at Florida Hospital, Winterpark
Nov 30 – Phone call from Dr. Lehman. Biopsy showed positive cancer. Good news – they know the primary location now. He recommends Robotic “TORS” surgery, and a neck dissection.
Dec 4 – Met with “Dr. BUMBLEHEAD” – a replacement Radiology Oncologist as Dr. Montejo had left the practice. He suggests standard chemo and radiation to begin a.s.a.p. We disagree mostly because he seemed clueless and had not spoken to our ENT. In hindsite, this was one of the best decisions we made - get a second opinion of radiation / chemo!
Dec. 14 – Met with Dr. Sombeck – recommended Radiation Oncologist by ENT. He lays out all the options, shows me PET and CT scans (the first time I actually saw these and understood why we should do certain things). Dr. Sombeck also described how - using Dr. Lehman's plan of action - they could reduce the amount of radiation I needed, and likely not do any Chemotherapy to help ensure I would live a long fulfilled life. He drew out a diagram showing that lower radiation would improve my quality of life over the long haul. Dr. Sombeck confirmed Dr. Lehman’s prognosis (treatable and curable) and the plan of action. - Robotic Surgery, Neck Dissection and then reduced radiation for quality of life concerns.
Dec. 7 – Pre op meeting with Dr. Lehman. First surgery recovery will be bad. Very painful. But I will get over it.
Dec. 18 – Robotic surgery for removal of tumor at base of tongue. Overnight in ICU, home next day. Christmas week – lots and lots of pain. He informed my wife after surgery that they had confirmed cancer due to HP Virus.Christmas week - Weight down 11 pounds in 7 days! The only thing I could really eat was "Cup -o- noodles". Used up a lot of hydrocodone pills. Doc had prescribed liquid codein, but could not take. Alcohol based and it ripped out my throat. Stopped taking it after 2 times. Doc prescribed a new set of pills. Spent most of the time in bed. Was able to do a little more each day.
Dec. 26 – follow up with Dr. Lehman. No cancer in tumor. Suggests they “must have gotten it all when the biopsy was done.”
New Years Eve 2012 - finally got to enjoy my Christmas dinner with family. Thanks to my mom who came and helped my wife take care of me.
Jan 11, 2013 – Pre-op with Dr. Lehman. Remarks that its weird how the lymph node tumor appears to be shrinking. When I asked him if God might be doing something, He states that "something may be happening…."
Jan 15 – “Modified Neck Dissection” – right side. Overnight stay – home next afternoon. Recovery not to bad. Back on my feet in less than 2 days Dr. Lehman tells April that he could tell that my body was fighting it, as it had “encapsulated” the cancer. And they think they got it all.
Jan 20 - overnight dream. I was hosting my birthday party to help support the "Cancer Survivors Network" and it was being catered with BBQ.
Jan 21, 2013 9am EST – Post op with Dr. Lehman. Bottom line…. 21 lymph nodes removed… all benign, no malignancies, nada – zip – zero… just some “rare encapsulation”….. Asked by my friend “If you believed in God, would you say that from the time you found it, until this surgery, God did something?” His answer was a quick “YOU COULD SAY THAT!”He then said – “The only question now is – what’s next? I don’t know if you need radiation. You need to see Dr. Sombeck. I will call him and tell him what’s happened, but you may be able to watch and see.”
Feb 6, 2013 1pm - Second consultation with Dr. Sombeck to determine followup radiation. He started the conversation with: "I have no pigeon hole to put you in!" He then went on to explain that the cancer WAS there.And it was verified as HPV related. But, now it is NOT THERE. Bottom line: Follow up in 3 months with PET Scan. No radiation, no chemo.
So – I have been poked and proded and tested… given away some of my tongue, and 21 lymph nodes – and all I have to show for it is… a long slice on the side of my neck that screams GOD IS GOOD!!!!If you have children under 20 - get them vaccinated against HPV. BOYS TO! This cancer is relatively new - and apparently completely avoidable. Pray for those that need the healing touch of God - pray that they hear when God speaks.
Feb 22, 2013 1:30pm - Follow up with Dr. Lehman. Everything looks good. He let my wife April actually look down the nose scope thing and they both had a good laugh at my throat and how silly I looked!
Apr 5, 2013 1:30pm - Follow Up with Dr. Lehman When I saw the doc – he checked things out and then just kinda talked. He said everything looks good, and to come back in June for a follow up. He said on my next PET scan (May 6) if there are any issues he would be in touch. He then said "I don't expect any issues. Everything looks good – your the miracle guy!"On a side note: I picked up copies of the original pathology reports today as well – when I looked down at the first page, I saw "malignant squammas cell cancer". To be honest – it floored me emotionally. I had never actually seen that line in writing. Heard it but not read it. So when the doc said what he did – it was like a pat on the back from my Daddy upstairs.
Apr 8, 2013 8pm - I scanned in the reports this evening, and it freaks me out to actually read what the doctors told me - cancer... and then to see it gone...
May 6, 2013 7:45am - Follow Up Pet Scan done at Winterpark.
May 8, 2013 8:50am - Review of PET with Dr. Sombeck. Unfortunately the PET scan is showing what appears to be a recurrence. Dr. Sombeck states it looks like a tumor to him, but on the PET it shows more like inflammation. Technician report says "recurrence". He schedules a CT scan, and tells me to see Dr. Lehman. Dr. Sombeck also states "Unfortunately, we do not have much experience with your situation". I asked what he meant and he indicates he means a growth appearing after robotic surgery - along with the healing stuff. Dr. Sombeck also states that we may now need to do the lower radiation with no chemo as previously planned.
May 10, 2013 - mid morning. Spoke with Dr. Lehman by phone. He is concerned. He tells me he is getting a biopsy scheduled asap, and that he may have to suggest the radiation. He also states "Everything about your situation is very weird."
May 15, 2013 10:45am - CT scan
May 15, 2013 2:00pm - Pre-op with Dr. Lehman Dr. Lehman speaks with me, my wife and my close friend Mike. He explains he is going to "biopsy the heck out the area." I ask him a series of questions, and share my stress and concerns. Its emotionally nerve wracking. I ask him to look down my throat and see for himself. He says "Sure" and takes a look using the thru the nose tube thingy. He also lets my friend Mike look at it. When they are all done their fun he explains that he see's nothing, and it all looks normal, but he is going to check to make sure. He also explains that during the laryngoscopy he can get a better look at things. I leave feeling much more assured.
May 17, 2013 11:30am - Biopsy completed late as Dr. Lehman was involved in saving a persons life in emergency surgery. We tell him thats a good reason for us to wait - and we are not complaining. After the surgery he told April that they took 6 biopsies and if we don't hear from him by Wednesday afternoon to call his office. He reiterates that he saw nothing unusual.
May 23, 2013 10am We had not heard from Dr. Lehman so I nervously called and left a message. Was told "His nurse will call you back." which led to fear coming in. Shortly after his nurse Amanda called and reminded me who she was and that she had not seen me last week and wanted to. She then told me she was looking at the reports (Dr. Lehman had not yet seen them) and they are "ALL NEGATIVE". I told her I love her and that they are all wonderful! I knelt and cried and thanked God. I am still healed!
May 29, 2013 1:10pm - Post Op with Dr. Lehman. He brought in the 6 biopsy results along with the CT Scan. He said the biopsies are all negative. And he "looked everywhere" including where the pet scan said to look – and nothing. ALL 100% NEGATIVE.I asked about the CT. He said it showed some issues, but normal issues (I don't recall his exact words) that either were there as part of my anatomy or due to the robotic surgery. Nothing abnormal.Dr. Lehman is going to talk with the Oncologist and bring him up to speed, and he may want to get a followup pet scan sometime down the road to track anything. But beyond that – I am still "the miracle guy".I got the impression that they really don't know what to do - because there simply isn't anything to do – nothing is there.
July 5, 2013 1:30pm - Post Op with Dr. Lehman. Everything still looks good. Healing from surgeries progressing. I sill have some strange feelings in my neck, and still have the sense of a hair in my throat, but doc says its normal.
Sept 6, 2013 1:30pm - Followup with Dr. Lehman Progressing normally - no signs of anything unusual. Sees no need for a PET scan at this time.
January 18, 2014 - Celebration! One year healed.
February 24, 2014 - PET scan for followup.
March 7, 2014 3:50pm - Follow up with Dr. Lehman to review PET scan. Dr. Lehman had a UCF medical student with him, and he introduced me as "The Miracle Guy" and explained all that happened. They both then looked down my throat and saw what robotic surgery does and how it looks. Dr. Lehman then told me that my PET results were near normal, and that the inflamation they saw last time was nearly gone. In essence what wasn't there before is now less there!
January 24, 2015 - Celebration! Two years healed.
January 26, 2015 - PET scan for followup.
January 16, 2016 - Celebration! Three years healed.
January 29, 2016 - Call from Dr. Lehman's office. Results of PET scan are in - all clear!!!
January 21, 2017 - Celebration! Four years healed.
February 17, 2017 - Dr. Lehman follow up - all good! See me next year.
Original post Jan 21, 2013 8:17pm EST Updated Feb 20, 2017 8:52am EST
Initial Biopsies: Fine Needle Aspiration Pathology Report (pdf, 290k, showing Squamous Cell Carcinoma) Base of Tongue Biopsy Pathology Report (pdf, 302k, showing Invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma - HPV related) Surgical Biopsies: Robotic Surgery (TORS) Pathology Report (pdf, 227k, showing no malignancy) Final pathology report (pdf, 181k, final pathology documenting miracle. showing no malignancy)
Thank you: Dr. Guirguis - Celebration, Florida / Florida Hospital Dr. Lehman (ENT) - Florida Hospital / Central Florida locations Dr. Sombeck (RO) - Florida Hospital Cancer Institute / Florida Oncology Network Nurse Lindsay Best - Florida Oncology Network Lorrie Amadeo - Florida Hospital Cancer Institute Florida Hospital - Winter Park (TORS, ICU staff, Billing and financials, intake, etc etc) Lisa Gilligan - help with understanding everything. Thomas Gilligan - true strength in spite of what you see. Susan Hartley - thanks mom. You may never know how much that visit meant. My wife April and my best friend Mike - for strength and encouragement. My kids, my family - and many many others that helped me thru. And mostly - Thank you Jesus.
The above story is true, and as accurate as I can recall at this moment. Facts can be verified - I had a miracle. I have been healed of HPV related tongue cancer that had matasticized to surrounding lymph nodes. I am updating this page as I recall additional facts, or memories and feelings. I never want to forget what I went thru - or what God did for me.
Keep the faith in spite of things.
William M. Gilligan
On January 21, 2013 I awoke from a dream just hours prior to my learning of my miracle healing from throat cancer.
In this dream, I was hosting a celebration for myself, it was catered with BBQ, and everyone I knew was asked to come, and to bring a donation for the Cancer Survivors Network.
This free party includes food, music, beer, wine and more. We do ask that children under 12 be supervised as we are unable to provide child care. Non-alcoholic drinks and kids food will be available.
Everyone is asked to make a donation of any amount to help support the Florida Hospital Foundation Cancer Institute (non-profit).
We also host an awesome Silent Auction, and a small raffle - ALL proceeeds go directly to the Florida Hospital Foundation.I am hoping that over time, others across the globe will host parties as well.
Who Else Had This Kind of Cancer? (Michael Douglas)