An Inspirational Nasopharyngeal Cancer Survivor Story

  • “If you keep moving, you can do anything.”

    Among nasopharyngeal cancer survivor stories, Tim Dorsey’s is certainly an incredible one.

    In July 2014, local fitness expert Tim Dorsey was a father of two and a newlywed with another baby on the way.

    But, he began to have some facial numbing beneath his right eye socket as well as ocular migraines in which he would experience “rainbows in the eyes” or trails of bright colors whenever he moved his eyes. His senses of smell and taste were also being affected.nasopharyngeal cancer survivor stories

    “My right eye was getting worse,” the 34-year-old Sanduskian said. “I had some numbness in my top lip, too. I thought it was a cavity so I saw a dentist.”

    A dental explanation for his symptoms couldn’t be found, so he was referred to a local Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, Benjamin Murcek, DO. A detailed exam showed signs of inflammation, and imaging of the head and neck was ordered.

    Once the studies were interpreted, Tim received a phone call from Dr. Murcek’s office, stating he needed to be seen right away.

    “I had to mentally prepare for the bad news,” Tim said. “It’s probably the worst news you are ever going to get.”

    Fight of His Life: The Day Tim Became a Nasopharyngeal Cancer Patient

    The news Tim received on December 17, 2014 was that he had nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare type of head and neck cancer that starts in the upper part of the throat, behind the nose.

    Tim knew he was in the fight of his life against nasopharyngeal carcinoma, but he tried to remain positive.

    “He (the doctor) said I had a tumor,” he said. “Not that I was going to die.”

    The nasopharyngeal carcinoma was critically located in close proximity to the optic nerve and it was eroding the base of Tim’s skull.

    “I help people evolve physically,” Tim said. “When I was diagnosed, I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in my entire life. I ate perfectly; I did everything I should have been doing. When I was told I had cancer, I was like ‘Really? Me?.”

    That’s when Tim turned to University Hospital Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center where he could receive the care he needed without being far from his family. Tim struggled with the idea of having chemotherapy and radiation for nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and considered taking a natural, holistic approach to treatment instead.

    But a phone call from Medical Oncologist Vinay Gudena, MD, and Radiation Oncologist Mersiha Hadziahmetovic, MD, DABR® changed his mind.

    “They told me there was a possibility that I may not be around for the birth of my daughter in the Spring,” Tim said. “Hearing that changed things.”

    His aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy for nasopharyngeal cancer began to take a toll on Tim, both physically and mentally. He was having a metallic taste in his mouth which gave food a bad taste causing him to not want to eat and, in turn, he lost 42 pounds. Another side effect of the radiation was decreased saliva production which caused the need to continually drink water.

    nasopharyngeal carcinoma survivor stories“You have no idea how depressing food is when you go from enjoying it to it tasting like a sack of pennies,” Tim said.

    Through the Cancer Program Fund, The Foundation for Firelands was able to provide Tim with a continuous supply of specially-formulated mouthwash that helped with some of the bothersome side effects of his treatment. He was also provided anti-nausea medication to offset the side effect of chemotherapy, as well as other forms of support to lighten the burden of his nasopharyngeal carcinoma treatment.

    On May 1, 2015, Tim had his last chemotherapy session and subsequent scans showed that Tim was cancer free.

    And the best part?

    He was able to be there for the birth of his daughter, Addison Rae.

    “This was the worst type of scenario,” Tim said. “But everyone at University Hospital Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center was awesome. They know everyone by name and treat you like family; that’s not something you’d get anywhere else.”

    For Tim and his wife Kayla, his nasopharyngeal cancer survivor story helped them change their view of life.

    “Life before nasopharyngeal cancer and my daughter was a lot of work, but when you love your job, you don’t really think of it as work,” he said. “But now we are living more, stepping out of our normal routine and doing things we always wanted to do.”

    Tim has taken up jujitsu and karate, both things he’s wanted to do since childhood, and he and his wife Kayla are planning adventures like jumping out of a plane. He’s also back to working out and teaching fitness classes at his business, Tim Dorsey Fitness, where his motto has always been “Just keep moving.”

    “I’ve always said that to people to keep them motivated,” Tim said. “It encompasses life – if you ever want to be somewhere, you have to keep moving. If you keep moving, you can do anything.”

    For more on this inspirational nasopharyngeal cancer survivor story, watch Tim’s cancer patient stories video here.