When Chris Williams began experiencing common cold symptoms such as a stuffy nose and earache, he never imagined it would lead to a serious condition. “One day, I suddenly began slurring my speech,” Chris said.
He knew this wasn’t normal and immediately went to the emergency room. After completing an MRI, doctors informed Chris he had a cancerous tumor in his nasal passages. “I was pretty upset and scared of not knowing what was going to happen next.”
He was then referred to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. After his consultation, doctors recommended proton therapy to treat his nasopharyngeal cancer. Unlike traditional radiation, proton therapy is able to deliver high doses of radiation directly to the tumor while minimizing damage to healthy surrounding tissue.
“Proton therapy was able to protect my ‘high-end real estate.’ It was able to protect my optic nerves, brain stem, teeth and jaw. Also, proton therapy has fewer side effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite and dry mouth compared to traditional radiation. Knowing that proton therapy would help cut down the side effects helped lift my spirits,” Chris shared.
Chris began treatment at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in April 2014 and completed a total of 35 treatments. The comprehensive care offered at MD Anderson was very helpful and allowed Chris to continue living his life during treatment. Doctors and nurses provided the needed resources that can impair the quality of life of head and neck cancer patients. “They gave me a list of exercises to do on jaw movements to help with my treatment,” Chris said.
He distinctly remembers ringing the gong on his last day of treatment. “It was one of the best days of my entire life. I was surprised by 20 people that consisted of my family and closest friends.” Chris recalls.
Besides receiving innovative treatment, Chris was amazed by the personable staff at the Proton Therapy Center. “The staff was very nice and inviting. From the second I walked in the door, they would say, ‘Hi, Chris!’”
Giving back through Facebook support group
Chris is an active participant on a Facebook support group that helps raise awareness on nasopharyngeal cancer. He frequently shares his experience with cancer patients to help provide the emotional support needed by many. He even created a video explaining on what to expect when using the facemask for proton therapy treatment.
“I want to remind others undergoing treatment that they are much stronger than what they think,” Chris said.
“Now, life is fantastic!”
Chris loves trying new foods from different cultures while mastering his culinary skills. “Life is fantastic. Maybe one day I will open my own food truck serving authentic Filipino food,” Chris said.
He enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and three dogs. Whenever he has a chance, Chris loves going on deep-sea tuna-fishing trips that can take up to 30 hours.